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Survivor stories are ideal for cancer awareness

Patients who speak out make a difference in aspects of research, funding and support

Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News
Dr Pamela Munster
Gulf News

Dubai: To prove that breast cancer can affect anybody, breast cancer research specialist Dr. Pamela Munster spoke of her experience as a survivor during a health event at Zulekha Hospital on Tuesday.

The event, Think Pink, part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by Joyalukkas in association with Zulekha Hospital and supported by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), highlighted the concerns faced by the medical community in raising awareness for the disease.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr. Munster, a US-based professor at the Department of Medicine (oncology), University of California, and a guest speaker at several breast cancer awareness initiatives in the UAE, said that the most effective method for breast cancer awareness is to share stories by cancer survivors.

When she was diagnosed earlier this year, she said she felt isolated and her knowledge in the field of breast cancer research didn’t prepare her to deal with the disease.

“I thought, ‘I am a breast cancer doctor: how could this happen to me?’ I didn’t want to talk about it at first, but once I did, I realised there were others who shared my experience — fears, worries, doubts, anxiety, stress, shame, reluctance, etc. I was diagnosed in the early stage — a curable one,” she said.

The right tools

Breast cancer awareness has got a firm footing with real stories, she explained. “In the US and Europe, survivor stories have made all the difference in aspects of research, funding and support. It has also shed light on the need for the right tools to not only survive the disease but to also deal with the isolation, stress, changes in the body and side effects of drugs.”

Gulf News also spoke to officials from the DHA. Dr. Amer Ahmad Sharif, director of healthcare operations, Hospitals Services Sector, said, “There is a need to increase awareness in older as well as young women. Early awareness will not only reduce costs of healthcare, but more importantly, improve the quality of life of the population.”

Dr Shaheenah Dawood, head of medical oncology at Dubai Hospital, said, “Women in the UAE are presenting themselves with stage two [breast cancer] and higher, compared to the West where it is detected in the early stages. Every woman should be aware of the changes in the breast — this self-awareness is very important.”

Joy Alukkas, chairman and managing director of the Joyalukkas Group, told Gulf News that the company has been associated with blood donation drives for the past several years, and the latest initiative under its CSR activity is in its second year.

The company’s CSR campaign will include month-long awareness drives, free breast consultation vouchers at Zulekha Hospitals and in-store activities distributing educational booklets.

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