Abu Dhabi: The success of breast cancer surgery is higher when the cancer is caught early, before it has spread to the lymph nodes or the rest of the body. The cure for a Stage I breast cancer can reach 98 per cent, said Dr Taghreed Almahmeed, consultant general surgeon and breast specialist.
Dr Almahmeed, who works at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, was encouraging education about the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, the most common form of cancer diagnosed in women. October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, across the world.
“There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer but there are things you can do to lower your risk,” Dr. Almahmeed said as breast cancer survival rates increase due to advancements in research, prevention, early detection and innovative treatment options.
Dr. Almahmeed, who has Emirati/Bahraini background, advises women: regularly checking your breasts familiarises you with how they look and feel that you can detect the early signs of breast cancer.
“You have to familiarise yourself with potential breast cancer symptoms. It’s important to do monthly self-breast exams starting at the age of 25 and a clinical breast exam would be part of your annual checkup with your doctor,” she said.
Dr. Almahmeed added the recommended ages for breast exams and mammograms vary. “For women in the ages of 25 to 39 it is advised to get annual breast exams and possibly ultrasounds. For women aged 40 and above annual mammograms are advised as part of early breast cancer screening. Mammograms can detect a breast lump before it can be felt.”
Dr. Almahmeed suggested factors that can decrease the risk of breast cancer includes obtaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy well-balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, breast-feed if you can and avoid postmenopausal hormone therapy
“Genetic testing should also be done if there is breast cancer or ovarian cancer in a close relative such as a mother, sister,daughter, maternal aunt especially if they were diagnosed at a younger age,” she further advised.
Dr. Almahmeed says she chose medicine because she belongs to a medical family. “My mother is a physician, my father is a pharmacist and my brother was studying medicine in the UK when I decided to go into medical school.”
She studied medicine in Bahrain at the Arabian Gulf University, then went on to do a residency in General Surgery at the University of British Columbia in Canada in 1994.
After receiving the fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Dr. Almahmeed moved to the United States, where she became American Board certified in General Surgery. She did a fellowship in laparoscopic surgery and bariatric surgery and in breast cancer surgery.
After a couple of years in the US, Dr. Almahmeed then moved to Dubai.
She says she chose the field of breast cancer surgery because she is a woman and realised how much female patients were more comfortable dealing with a female surgeon.
“Being a woman, I felt more empathetic towards them and knew that in addition to operating on them, I needed to help them physically, mentally and emotionally through every stage of cancer treatment,” Dr. Almahmeed said.
Early signs of breast cancer
• Lumps, hard knots or thickening inside the breast or underarm
• Swelling of the breast, warmth, redness or darkening
• Changes in the size or shape of the breast
• Skin dimpling or puckering
• An itchy scaly nipple, sore or rash
• Nipple or breast inversion or retraction
• Nipple discharge especially from one breast
• Pain in one spot that doesn’t go away