Awareness for early diagnosis of breast cancer remains low


Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Breast cancer experts who gathered here for a media workshop on Saturday agreed that greater awareness is needed in society to encourage women to conduct mammograms to have an early diagnosis of possible malignancy.

The doctors said early diagnosis means effective treatment, reduced rate of progression and a better quality life for patients. They noted that there must be awareness on different levels, including public, media and individual.

When asked about breast cancer treatments available to expatriate women, Dr. Omalkhair Abulkhiar, a consultant in medical oncology at the National Guard Health Affairs, told Saudi Gazette that they have called on the private sector to include expatriates in social responsibility programs so they could get treatment for free in case their insurance schemes do not cover the treatment. She added that at present expatriates could get free treatment through charity societies alone.

Dr. Tahir Al-Tuweijeri, a consultant in medical oncology at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, said breast cancer constitutes one-third of all cancers diagnosed in the world. He added that the ratio in the Kingdom is not far from the global rate. He said women who are in their 50s are more vulnerable to the disease.

Al-Tuweijeri noted that advanced countries like the US and Switzerland have increased the diagnosis of breast cancer at early stages. However, in the Kingdom for the last 10 years the rate of women diagnosed at early stages remains stagnant, which means the majority of cases doctors receive are at late stages. This, he said, drives the Kingdom to "put high cost for no value" since the survival rate in late stages is less, compared to early diagnoses.

The latest available statistics for breast cancer in the Kingdom dates back to 2013, said the specialist. He added that at that time only 1,835 cases were detected and he anticipated the number to have increased in the past four years.

Dr. Meteb Al-Foheidi, a medical oncology consultant at the National Guard Health Affairs, said obesity might put women at greater breast cancer risk. He added that the use of birth control pills randomly and without consulting doctors could also be a cause factor.

The doctors recommended making mammogram tests compulsory on women above the age of 40. Thy also offered to give training workshops for reporters to help increase their understanding of breast cancer so that they can raise awareness in society equipped with scientific knowledge.

The media workshop was organized by Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, at Jeddah Sofitel on Saturday. It was attended by specialists from different Saudi regions and representatives of various media organizations.

According to a breakdown of figures presented by the experts, 41.1 women in every 100,000 women in the Eastern Province have breast cancer, 29.3 in Riyadh region, 25.3 in Makkah region, 25 in the Northern Border and 24.9 in Tabuk region.