How you can join the fight against breast cancer in Bahrain this month
Time Out Bahrain staff
reast cancer is a serious illness – according to US-based advocacy group Susan G Komen for the Cure, a woman dies from breast cancer worldwide every 75 seconds. And in Bahrain, as in most countries around the world, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing, affecting approximately 56 per every 100,000 females in the population. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and as people live longer the number of cancers also rises.
But just as the numbers of those affected increases, so does the fight against it intensify, and also the effectiveness in how in can be treated. ‘If cancers are found when they are small, the majority of patients can have a normal life expectancy,’ says Professor Niall O’Higgins of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical University of Bahrain, who is also chief of staff at King Hamad University Hospital. ‘Many women live normally after treatment.’
This is good news, and O’Higgins stresses that awareness and regular check-ups are key to finding signs of the disease early on. ‘Breast cancers grow larger with time,’ he says. ‘Larger cancers are more likely to have spread to other parts of the body, are more difficult to treat and much less likely to be cured. Any abnormality in the breast should be reported to a doctor without delay, and women in a certain age band or who are at a particularly high risk of developing the disease should also have screenings, and investigated regularly for signs of cancer.’
Organisations such as Think Pink Bahrain are here to promote awareness and education regarding breast cancer, and to support those that may be affected. This month in particular, there will be many events designed to help raise money for research and fight the disease. Think Pink will also be informing people about the ways to detect breast cancer, as Professor O’Higgins explains. ‘At present the most validated screening method is by mammography – an X-ray of the breast,’ he says. ‘A mammogram can identify a cancer four years before a woman would notice a sign herself. The screening programme should ideally be applied to the entire female population within a defined age range – say 45 or 50, to 75 or older, and conducted by the government, as is the case in Ireland and in the UK. A mammography-based screening programme was introduced in Bahrain in 2005.’
Professor O’Higgins is also keen to point out that breast cancer is not a death sentence, nor does it necessarily mean removal of the breast. ‘Most women with small breast cancers are alive and well 20 years after treatment,’ he says. ‘What women should look for is a lump in the breast or armpit, or a lumpy area or unusual thickening that is not related to the monthly period. Also check for a change in size or shape of one breast, and a dimpling or puckering of the skin. If there is a swelling, redness or a rash on the breast, or pain not related to the period, a rash or blood-stained discharge from the nipple, then this should also be examined. The great majority of lumps in the breast are not due to cancer, but it is important to be sure and to relieve anxiety.’
There may be things you can do now to help keep breast cancer at bay, although genetics and family history can play a part – and it’s not just women who are at risk. ‘Although men are not immune from the disease, more than 99 per cent of people who develop breast cancer are women,’ says Professor O’Higgins. ‘Some women are at particularly high risk, especially those who are genetically predisposed to the condition, and women who have a strong family history of the disease. Women who have not had children or who have had their first pregnancy relatively late in life, people who have been on hormone-replacement therapy for prolonged periods of time, and those who are significantly overweight are also at increased risk. A healthy body weight, a well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables and limited in sugary or fatty foods is recommended.’
And as well as the efforts employed by Think Pink, there are other ways in which the kingdom is fighting breast cancer. ‘It is tremendously important and welcome news that funding of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) for Bahrain has been approved and is being planned,’ Professor O’Higgins reveals. ‘This will be linked to the King Hamad University Hospital and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and will combine the essential elements in modern cancer care. There will be a high concentration of medical and scientific specialist expertise, dealing with a large number of cancers each year, thus maintaining and extending the doctors’ skills; it will have extensive research laboratories, involving international collaboration, so that research discoveries in Bahrain can be made, and innovation from elsewhere rapidly applied; educational programmes and strategies designed for the public and for health professional in the areas of cancer prevention and cancer detection will also be initiated. The Cancer Centre will have the most modern facilities to investigate and treat children and adults with cancer. There will also be a screening centre. Much work and support will be required to establish the CCC, but its arrival will be of enormous benefit to the people in Bahrain.’
There is much that can be done in the fight against breast cancer, so start here this month by taking part in one of the many events organised by Think Pink. It’s a chance to learn more about the disease – and education and raising awareness cannot be stressed enough. Breast Cancer Awareness Month takes place throughout October. For more info, see the website at www.thinkpinkbahrain.com.
Breast cancer: the facts
• Breast cancer is becoming more common, but ways of finding it and treating it are improving rapidly.
• Breast cancer does not mean a death sentence.
• If it is found when small, it can be cured. If found when it is large, cure is less likely.
• Cure rates are consistenty improving worldwide.
• Mastectomy (removal of the breast) is not needed for most small cancers.
• Treatment is rapidly becoming more refined and individualised, depending on the biology of the cancer.
• To have the best chance of cure, women should go to their GP as soon as they find an abnormality.
• A regular mammographic screen should be carried out every two years from the age of 45 or 50, or at an earlier age if the woman has special risk factors.
• Investigation and treatment of women with breast complaints should be carried out in specialist breast centres.
Think Pink events
Oct 1 Sellabrations First Charity Bazaar Royal Golf Club, contact facebook: sellabrations or twitter: @S_GCC
Oct 7 Pink HOG’s Ride The Harley Owners’ Group tour Bahrain. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 39 922 090
Oct 9 Bahrain City Centre’s ‘Wear a Ribbon’ Purchase a ribbon at the customer service desks to help support the digital MRI Fund Oct 10 JJ’s Karaoke night In support of Think Pink Bahrain. Call 39 329 083
Oct 15 Kick up your Heels Walkathon At Bahrain City Centre. Contact the customer service desks for info
Oct 20 Think Pink Party Dilmun Club, contact 39 679 127 Oct 21 Bodyline Open Day Contact deefitbodyline on Twitter, or call 17 793 932
Oct 22 Think Pink Party Studio Ceramics is making a tile wall, with cupcakes and pink candy floss to be enjoyed, plus a raffle. Call 17 599 026, or email email@example.com Oct 25 Grape Escape goes Pink Special themed night at Camelot. Call 39 977 540 Oct 28 Mondial Hisham Fulath Football Tournament In support of Think Pink Bahrain. Call 36 619 944, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for info
Oct 28 Think Pink Bahrain Gala Evening Event At the Gulf Hotel from 7.30pm, tickets BD30. Call 36 553 999 or 36 531 310