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Breast cancer menace in Oman: Early detection only way to reduce its danger

29 Jun 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

Cancer, which is often described as a tumultuous journey that starts at diagnosis, makes some people feel that their life is on hold. However, this feeling can be avoided by early detection and proper care, especially if related to breast cancer.

A study conducted by specialists in the sultanate shows that 33 per cent of women who suffer from breast cancer report late (usually after the disease has entered the third or fourth stage), despite the fact that they were aware that their chances of recovery depend on early diagnosis.

The study, conducted at The Royal Hospital’s Centre for Breast Cancer Tumour Treatment, as well as the Cancer Treatment Unit at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, observed that breast cancer is the type of cancer that is most common in the sultanate and that it comprises 12.8 per cent of all cancer cases and 21.2 per cent of cancers afflicting women.

In a chat with Muscat Daily, Shaikh Saud al Rawahi, advisor and vice president of Oman Cancer Association (OCA), said cancer patients and survivors need to be treated like any other people. However, he said it may not be that simple as the reality is often more emotionally and physically complex; but he urged people to never give up the fight. 

Rawahi, who lost his wife to the disease, said, earlier cancer was a word feared by many and often seen as terminal. “But with time and because of awareness now, it is important to remember that more people can survive cancer than die from it. Education and awareness are important. We know cancer is tough and treatment can be tougher, but we have to keep up the fight,” he said.

Narrating what he went through while helping his wife fight cancer, Rawahi said, “After my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, we had to fight it. I took her to the US where her breasts were removed, then to India for further follow-ups, which was also done in Oman. She lived for a few years but unfortunately she passed away. But during all the time, I treated her like a normal person to not make her feel sad all the time.”

To further boost awareness on cancer in Oman, especially breast cancer, OCA has two mobile mammography units that conduct free-of-cost screening for breast cancer across the country. “These units are free for all nationalities who are above 40,” Rawahi said.

“The mobile mammography Unit of OCA has been on the trial for the awareness campaign programme offering free mammograms to women over the age of 40 years. Those who are positive will be fast-tracked for treatment immediately,” he added.

“In addition to the mobile mammography Unit, we have Dar al Hanan – Home Away From Home – for children with cancers, palliative care services, patients advocacy and specific awareness programmes for the community all around Oman,” Rawahi said.

“We need to embrace the concept of cancer prevention and control for all cancers by believing that regular examination gives early diagnosis and cure.

“To defeat cancer, prevention and control is our goal. The association visits all 11 governorates of the sultanate to raise awareness about the deadly disease, and educate people about how early prevention plays a major role in fighting cancer,” Rawahi said.

OCA, which has won many accolades, was supposed to hold a memorable and historically landmark event for Oman – hosting the UICC World Cancer Leaders Summit and the World Cancer Congress, but the COVID-19 pandemic hampered the event.

On the pandemic situation, Rawahi said, “We have to learn to live with it. My three daughters and my brothers and their wives contracted the virus. We need to take extra care about our behaviours. I am totally against those people who hold social events during this time. We have to learn to live without such activities.”

He said that cancer patients are advised to avoid crowded places, be cautious when they attend hospital for visits and treatments and have no contact with friends and relatives with COVID-19 symptoms.

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