World Cancer Day 2020: "Breast Cancer Champions" in Gaza

 

In 2019, our Senior Regional Manager Su travelled to the Middle East, where she met the “Breast Cancer Champions” at Al Ahli hospital. She documented her experience for us.

The first time I visited Al Ahli Hospital in 2014, I was shocked to discover that a woman in Gaza diagnosed with breast cancer had only a 45% chance of being alive five years later. In Gaza, there’s stigma attached to breast cancer, and women die because they are ashamed to talk about their concerns.

Suhaila Tarazi, Director of Al Ahli, explains how the lack of treatment options and resulting low chances of recovery have a wide social impact in Gaza. ‘Many women who fi nd something wrong do not seek help. They don’t perform self-examinations because they know if they find something they will be shunned by their families.

 ‘Breast cancer is a death sentence in Gaza because of the lack of treatment options. Many husbands leave their wives at diagnosis to avoid being there for a slow decline.’

In the UK, 87% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are alive after five years. After my own diagnosis and successful treatment, I was determined to help Al Ahli encourage women to seek help sooner.

When Al Ahli said they wanted to start a breast cancer awareness campaign, I helped raise money for it by joining with Embrace supporters. I met Al Ahli’s team of ‘Breast Cancer Champions’. They’re women who have survived breast cancer and spread the message that self-examination is truly a life-saver.

Nedaa is a ‘Champion’. She went through treatment at the same time as me and is an inspiring breast cancer thriver! Through her personal story of being a survivor, she connects with women and combats the stigma that surrounds the disease. While the challenges remain huge and treatment options are still very limited, the programme is making a real difference.

More women are seeking help and five-year survival rates at Al Ahli have gone up to 50%.  This is still low by UK standards but it’s the right direction – and it has only been made possible by the Breast Cancer Champions and your generosity.

 

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