Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC), one of the UAE’s largest hospitals for serious and complex care and a joint-venture partnership between Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and Mayo Clinic, drives emphasis on holistic care this Breast Cancer Awareness Month – observed in October of every year, beginning from education to a multi-disciplinary model of care.
Dr. Shahrukh Hashmi, Consultant and Chairman, Hematology & Oncology Division at SSMC, said: “Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual, month-long initiative to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. While the annual observance increases collective consciousness around the disease and healthcare providers emphasize the significance of regular screening, it is equally important to focus on education and understanding the holistic effects of the disease on patients, from the physical to the psychological.”
SSMC adopts a multi-disciplinary treatment approach, with cross-specialty physicians that holistically diagnose and treat breast cancer, including oncologists, surgeons, plastic surgeons, and pathologists. Part of their services for screening includes genetic testing that checks for mutated genes in carriers who might have a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer. This gives people an opportunity to learn whether breast cancer is highly prevalent in their family due to a gene mutation that is inherited.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be used to screen those who have a high risk of breast cancer, while other forms of testing include breast examinations, ultrasound, thermography, and tissue sampling.
Mayada, a 50-year old breast cancer survivor: “I was diagnosed with cancer in my breast in its early stages when I was 46 years old. My mother is a breast cancer survivor herself. When she heard me complain about a pain in my breast, she urged me to see a doctor. I never thought it could be cancer since I didn’t feel any changes in my breast except for the pain. I never did self-checks or opted to go to hospital for a screening, despite my age and family history. The fear of facing the possibility of cancer made me ignore the early and regular screenings, which is why I am thankful that my mother and family encouraged me to see a doctor, and only following a biopsy was I diagnosed. I encourage everyone not to let the fear of discovery stop them from taking care of themselves and to understand that cancer is a disease that can be treated, when caught early.”
Depending on the patient case, type of breast cancer, and stage of diagnosis, it is common for patients with breast cancer to get more than one kind of treatment. Treatment options for breast cancer vary, and include: surgery to remove cancer tissue; chemotherapy to shrink or kill cancer cells; hormonal therapy which blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow; biological therapy that collaborates with the body’s immune system to help it fight cancer cells; and radiation therapy that uses high-energy rays to kill cancerous cells.
Dr. Nahed Balalaa, Consultant, Breast Surgeon at SSMC said: “A life-changing diagnosis like breast cancer not only has a physical effect, but it is also a form of cancer that can have a strong psychosocial impact, introducing feelings of low self-esteem and negative self-image. A lesser known fact about breast cancer is that treatment goes beyond purely ridding the body of the cancer itself but also addresses the outward effects of the disease, which can be alleviated with surgical treatments. Where a patient’s condition allows for it, breast conservation is an option where surgeons elect to keep the breast, and only remove the cancerous tissue. There is also the option of breast reconstruction which includes 2 types: the immediate reconstruction and delayed reconstruction. The type of the reconstruction depends on the cancer stage, medical condition, and any additional therapies that could be required after the surgery.”
During the month of October, SSMC will be hosting awareness activities, including booth activations, where members of the public can meet SSMC physicians and nurses, discuss any questions or concerns regarding breast cancer, and learn more about the risk factors, symptoms, treatments, and simple daily habits to reduce the risk.
The general public are encouraged to visit SSMC’s booths from October 10 to 16, which will be located at SSMC from October 10 to 13 and then at Yas Mall (in front of Carrefour) from October 14 to 16. In addition, to commemorate the observance, SSMC’s building will appear in pink during the full month of October.