Mar 3, 2022

Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City marks colorectal cancer awareness month

Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City marks colorectal cancer awareness month
  • SSMC will launch an awareness campaign this March using the theme “You can prevent it. We can treat it” to highlight the high preventability of the disease and the importance of screening
  • In total, 88% of over 40 years of age have not been screened – with a third reluctant to be tested even if directed by their doctor
  • If detected early, up to 95% of colorectal cancer cases are curable

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. March 02, 2022: 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, is marking Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month this March by launching an awareness campaign emphasizing the importance of screening and prevention.

Using the theme “You can prevent it. We can treat it.”, the campaign aims to encourage everyone to be proactive about colorectal screening and offer education to the community about the importance of disease prevention.

Dr. Michael Wallace, Consultant – Gastroenterology and Hepatology and Chair of Department, SSMC said: “Colorectal Cancer is the second most common cancer in the UAE and one of the leading causes of cancer deaths but remains one of the easiest cancers to prevent. However, we find that there are real barriers and misconceptions that prevail when it comes to screening for this cancer, which is a true challenge. However, if colorectal cancer is detected early, that is, before patients start showing symptoms, up to 95% of cases are curable. Furthermore, our FDA and UAE-approved Artificial Intelligence technology, known as GI Genius, significantly enhances our ability to safely detect the presence of pre-cancerous polyps in the colon, which reduces the risk of deaths by up to 50%.”

Colorectal cancer occurs when growths, known as polyps, occur on the inner lining of the colon. These polyps are often benign but can become cancerous over time. The polyps are characteristically detected through various screening methods, namely a colonoscopy, and screening is encouraged for men and women once every 10 years from the age of 40  (an age group where 80% of colorectal cancers are found) and for Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) annually as per the Department of Health (DoH) and Abu Dhabi Public Health Council (ADPHC) recommendations for screening. Regular screening is also encouraged for those who have a history of colorectal cancer in their families.

To identify key perceptions about colorectal screening, SSMC commissioned a survey targeting UAE residents of 40 years of age and above. 63% of the respondent pool indicated that a lack of symptoms is the key reason they would not proactively undergo screening, a challenge considering that a person with early, curable colorectal cancer doesn’t present with symptom which is why screening is important before symptoms manifest.

In total, 88% of respondents had never undergone screening for colorectal cancer before with 77% saying that they are more concerned about contracting diabetes and 35% stated being worried about obesity.

Additionally, 55% of Emirati respondents attribute not undergoing screening for colorectal cancer to either fear of pain, fear of discovering diseases, or shame and embarrassment. For respondents who indicated that they had undergone screening for colorectal cancer before, colonoscopy was listed as a main method of screening followed by computed tomography colonography, fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, and stool DNA testing.

Dr. Faek El Jamali, Consultant for Colorectal Surgery and Surgical Oncology at SSMC, said: “One of your main targets is to educate the public that screening should take place in the absence of any symptoms in order to identify polyps at an early stage. By the time symptoms of colon cancer develop, like blood in the stools, weight loss, worsening constipation, anemia, the test is no longer considered a screening test as we are not detecting the cancer at an early stage. Our expert team works very hard to make the screening process as private, painless and comfortable as possible for all patients.

Last year, SSMC launched their ‘By Women, For Women’ initiative that saw the facility’s female gastroenterologists, surgeon, endoscopists, and nurses leading the practice of colonoscopies for female patients, increasing their reassurance and ensuring they are comfortable throughout the entire process.

Dr. Jamali continued: “A female patient was directed by her family doctor to have screening done, which she initially refused due to her fear of hospitals. She finally consented to a colonoscopy after encouragement from her doctor, as she suffered from symptoms for an extended period. The colonoscopy detected a tumor for which the patient had to undergo chemotherapy, along with a surgery, which the patient elected to have at SSMC. We successfully performed a robotic-assisted proctectomy. The benefit of robotic surgery lies in minimally invasive, less scarring, faster recovery, and less risk of complications. The patient is doing well now and continues her follow-up consultations with our team.”

The SSMC patient said: “I wish I had the courage to do the screening immediately when my symptoms were picked up. It might have resulted in me not needing to go through the chemotherapy and the surgery. I would encourage regular screening for everyone. It really isn’t something to be afraid of and my experience showed me that there is treatment available and our health care system is constantly pursuing the latest treatments and technologies to treat diseases like this.”

At SSMC, we are proud to have a multidisciplinary team of gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, and radiologists who are experts in diagnosing and finding the best-advanced treatment plan for colorectal patients. We are also proud to offer the most advanced surgical treatment techniques for patients who may be diagnosed with colorectal cancer including cutting edge minimally invasive techniques which cause less pain and result in faster recovery as well as state of art robotic techniques increasing surgical precision and improving outcomes.

SSMC will be hosting key activities during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. A booth activation will be present in the Galleria Mall from March 21-27 where SSMC’s gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons will be stationed to answer patients’ questions and schedule on-the-spot appointment bookings.

In addition, SSMC will be hosting a community outreach activation that will include awareness lectures and videos in collaboration with corporate and community stakeholders in the Emirate, and live social media sessions with Dr. Michael Wallace and Dr. Faek Al Jamali.

For more information and to book a consultation with gastroenterology experts at SSMC, visit https://preventit.ssmc.ae/ or contact 80050.