Browsing 'breast cancer' News

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UN Women Asia and the Pacific/Flickr

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Free mammograms are now available to female Qatar residents between the age 45 and 69 years old as part of a campaign to mark Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) is running a campaign throughout October to encourage women to book appointments for the test as part of its Screen For Life program.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Qatar among women, accounting for a third of all cancer cases in this demographic.

However, survival rates are high if the cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

Making an appointment

Throughout this month, the PHCC will have stands in four malls across Qatar reminding women to book mammograms.

Women aged between 45 and 69 with no current or past symptoms are eligible for screening. They can call 8001112 to book and appointment.

However, women who have previously suffered from breast cancer should contact their physician at PHCC for further guidance.

You can then choose between two screening centers – in Al Wakra and Leabaib (northern Doha).

A valid HMC health card is required to use the service.

The Ministry of Health recommends that most women get breast cancer screenings every three years.

Women who are under 45 years old in Qatar can call 107 to book their own appointments.

‘Relaxing environment’

Qatar resident Rachel Morris recently had a mammogram at the Al Wakrah center, and shared her experience on the When, Where and How in Doha group on Facebook.

She said that she had booked the appointment easily on the phone and was seen on time. A nurse then took her family history and explained the procedure.

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Army Medicine/Flickr

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Afterwards, she had the mammogram performed by a “well trained and very professional” staffer. She also praised the center for having a relaxing environment:

“The screening center itself is located within the health center there and is more like a spa with comfy couches, soft music and even a nespresso machine” she said.

She added that she received her results via text message the following day.

Morris, who works for HMC, said that she shared her experience to inspire more women to take advantage of the service.

“We are all quick to criticize things in this country that don’t live up to our expectations or just don’t work like we want them to. This service is something we should use and support,” she said.

Mobile screening service

The two fixed screening centers in Al Wakrah and Doha are not the only option for women in Qatar who want to arrange a mammogram.

Mobile breast screening unit

QNA

Mobile breast screening unit

In August, a new, mobile breast screening unit began a city-wide tour to encourage women to get themselves checked.

The tests are carried out in private by a female mammography technologist and trained nurses.

Thoughts?

Kirsty Rice and family

Via Kirsty Rice

Kirsty Rice and family

Freelance writer and Qatar resident Kirsty Rice was recently diagnosed with breast cancer in her home country of Australia. Here, she explains what everyone’s been asking – why she chose to treat her illness in Doha.

My breast cancer diagnosis arrived in the surrounds of a green and leafy suburban private hospital in Adelaide, Australia.

I was due to fly back to Doha in a couple of days; my four children were due to start school and I had to get back to work, the mammogram was one of those annoying last minute jobs to strike off the list.

The GP had suggested the mammogram “just to be sure.” I’d taken the children to see her the day before and ran through their bits and pieces: a stray cough, hay-fever, did that mole need to be removed from his neck?

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Kristie Wells/Flickr

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“And what about you?” she’d asked after seeing the last child.

I’d taken a moment to think, almost search for an ailment.

“Oh! I had a lump checked out in Doha but it turned out to be a fatty cyst, just here under my arm.”

She asked to see it, made a phone call and booked me in for a mammogram the next day. I told her there was definitely nothing sinister, and that I really didn’t have time. Could I come back at Christmas? It’s just there’s packing to be done and I’m 100 percent sure it’s nothing – it turned out I was completely correct.

It was nothing.

Everything changes

It was the lump in the other breast that was sinister, the one neither she or I could feel, the fast growing triple negative aggressive breast cancer which was spotted on the mammogram and confirmed via ultrasound.

“You’re not flying anywhere,” the radiologist explained. That lump needs to come out now. I’ve seen enough cancers on the screen to know that that’s definitely breast cancer.

I’m making an appointment for you to see a breast surgeon this afternoon and we’ll get started on the biopsy and testing now.

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Ritz Carlton

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I rang my husband who was in the middle of his Friday morning bike riding ritual in Doha and left a message. “Ring me when you get home.”

My tone and timing had him ringing me as he loaded his bike back into the car.

“They’re saying it’s breast cancer, they need to take it out, they’re saying I could fly back but they’d prefer I didn’t. They’ll have more information by 5pm this afternoon – they’ll know more about what they’re dealing with.”

As the words came out the tears followed – was this really happening to us?

He was on a plane back to Australia that night.

I’d like to say I was clear on my thoughts of where and how treatment would happen in those early days but that would be a lie.

I knew I’d have the surgery in Australia because it had to happen quickly, but when it came to chemotherapy and radiation I was conflicted.

Chemo

I’d remembered standing at a party in Doha talking to a woman in a head-scarf while she talked of splitting her treatment between countries.

My son had a teacher who had breast cancer who’d had all of her treatment in Doha and was really pleased with how it had all panned out.

I had no idea.

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Jen Goellnitz/Flickr

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So I did what all expats do, I began my own investigating. I put a call out to friends – “anyone know anyone who’s been through chemo in Doha?”

I checked out the National Cancer Research Centre in Doha’s website – I managed to get the names of two nurses as well as their emails from friends in the know, and I immediately felt like things could work out.

I went to see an oncologist in Australia and asked for his thoughts, and if he could tell me what I needed was an easy process to replicate.

“Kirsty, chemo is basically a recipe, I can write it down and you can show it to your oncologist in Doha and I’m happy to talk it through with them.”

My chemo was set for a four-by-three weekly cycle. That meant that I would have chemo every 21 days, for four cycles, for a total of 12 weeks.

Here are the factors I had to weigh:

  • Family. Did I want to be away from my husband and children for at least 12 weeks.
  • Cost. In Doha the treatment is free, in Australia depending on insurance you’ll still end up with a hefty bill and expensive medicines.
  • Care. In Doha you’ll automatically receive a PET scan to check every inch of body to assure you’re otherwise cancer-free. In Australia it’s only standard to check it’s not in your bones or chest. Also, in Doha each cancer patient receives a granulocyte colony stimulating factor the day after chemo. This is an injection that boosts your white blood cell count to help ward of infection. In Australia, this injection is only received if your blood cell count drops to dangerously low levels. If you want to you can pay for the injection yourself, for somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.

Given these factors, it was a no-brainer for me. I would go back to Doha. If it didn’t work out I could go back home, but it all seemed to make much more sense for our family to go back to Doha. We needed to be together.

Lost in Hamad

I’ll admit it, my initial experience with Hamad wasn’t fun.

I got lost, I was sent to the wrong area, it was confusing.

Go to this desk, now go and pay at the cashier, then go to that desk. I made my way from desk-to-desk before I waited for three hours past my appointment time for 30 women to be seen before me.

Women's Hospital

HMC/Facebook

Women\’s Hospital

The breast surgeon had seen 65 people before me that day. She was wonderful, precise, experienced, and quick to give a referral to an oncologist.

When I saw the oncologist a few days later, he read my notes and suggested an alternative course for treatment.

He explained why with great clarity and talked about his experience at MD Anderson in Houston and why his treatment would give me a 1 to 2 percent higher chance of survival – though it would take longer and involve different drugs.

He was quick to point out though that he had no issue with following the plan my oncologist in Australia had set out.

“It’s your choice entirely, you get to decide, I am more than happy to do what your doctor in Australia has said.”

For timing, we went with my original choice. Four-by-three weekly cycles, “okay, let’s get started on Wednesday.”

I was immediately booked in for a blood test, a PET scan and handed a prescription for drugs that would have cost me hundreds of dollars in Australia, but here cost 4QR – just over $1.50.

The first round

I’ve now been through my first round of chemo. I took friends along for support who were as welcomed and well-looked after as I was.

During the process I was seen by a GP, a dietician and pharmacist and attended to by caring and efficient nurses. And while there were occasions that I needed to clarify what was said like in any conversation overseas where you’re dealing with a mixture of nationalities – it all went incredibly well.

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UN Women Asia & the Pacific/Flickr

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As someone who is currently learning about and understanding breast cancer, I can only give you these tips:

Early detection is key. I know you hear it all the time, but there’s a reason for that.

My lump was found early which meant chemotherapy gave me a higher than 90 percent chance of recovery.

I could have postponed that mammogram appointment, I could have returned to Doha with an aggressive tumor growing in my body. I could have waited until the lump was big enough that I felt it and it had made its way into my lymph nodes and my chances of survival were half as high.

Feel safe that you are in Doha, they know what they’re doing here.

Sure, the administrative side may take some getting used to, but you cannot fault the consultative care.

I’m glad to be having the treatment here, glad to still be picking up my children from school, putting them to bed at night, and sleeping side by side with my husband. I feel lucky to have my expat family and friends by my side.

Thoughts?


Kirsty is the author of the award winning expat blog 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle and the co-host of the expat podcast Two Fat Expats Kirsty will be hosting a breast cancer awareness coffee morning on the 27th October. You can find details on both of the Facebook pages 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle, or Two Fat Expats.

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UN Women Asia and the Pacific/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

With World Breast Cancer Awareness month underway, health officials in Qatar are launching a new campaign to encourage women to be regularly screened for one of the country’s most common illnesses.

According to a recent report, women in Qatar are often diagnosed with breast cancer at advanced stages, which puts them at a higher risk of dying from the disease.

As incidents of breast cancer here increase, HMC will be holding a series of lectures, workshops and conferences throughout October in addition to handing out leaflets aimed at reinforcing the message that the disease is curable if it is diagnosed early.

“All women are at risk for breast cancer. But, when breast cancer is caught early and treated, survival rates can be increased,” Karl Alexander Knuth, chair of cancer services at Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC), said in a statement.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Qatar, accounting for 31 percent of cancer cases in women, according to the Qatar Cancer Registry. It states that there are approximately 56 cases of breast cancer for every 100,000 women living in the country.

That’s up from 46.1 cases per 100,000 in 2012, according to data published by the UN.

Incidents of breast cancer in Qatar are slightly higher than the average rate across the Middle East and North Africa, which stood at 43 cases per 100,000.

Qatar is also near the top of the six GCC states, which range from a low of 26 per 100,000 in Oman to 46.68 cases per 100,000 in Kuwait, the UN data shows.

Limited support

Research published earlier this year showed that high-income, well-educated and married women in Qatar are more likely to be screened for breast cancer.

This is in line with the conclusions of studies in other countries, which have found that low education levels, language barriers, transportation challenges and limited social support networks make it harder for low-income women to be properly screened for breast cancer.

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Dixie Belle Cupcake Cafe

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The recent study, undertaken by researchers from several institutions including HMC and the University of Calgary-Qatar, found that women from the Levant and North Africa living in Qatar were “significantly” more aware of and practiced more breast cancer screening activities than Qatari nationals.

It noted that health professional in cancer research and screening centers have observed that Qatari women often shy away from screening due to concerns about anonymity and fear of discovering cancer.

The report’s authors recommend expanding low-cost or free medical services for low-income women in addition to making mammogram facilities accessible across the country.

This underscores the message from local organizers of World Breast Cancer Awareness month for women to seek medical advice if they notice any changes in their breasts, such as a lump or changes to the skin or shape of their breast, and to go for regular screening if they are above the age of 45 or have a family history of breast cancer.

Thoughts?