Dubai: The fight against breast cancer is in full swing in October, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the disease.

The emirate of Dubai is witnessing a host of campaigns. The first week of the month has already seen the launch of several campaigns involving schools, residents and hospitals. Also in focus are stories of survivors.

The Think Pink campaign, part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by Joyalukkas in association with Zulekha Hospital, looks at educating women and families on the importance of regular screening.

Supported by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the Think Pink campaign has at its forefront a breast cancer survivor, also a breast cancer doctor, pushing for early detection.

According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any breast change checked by a healthcare professional.

Early detection

With this in mind, focus is on early screening, especially in the UAE where women present themselves with stage two breast cancer and higher, compared to the West where it is detected in the early, treatable stages.

Speaking to Gulf News, oncology specialists said that screening increases the chances of detecting breast cancers early when it is mostly likely curable.

Dr Mouza Al Hattawi, chairperson of the DHA Breast Cancer Campaign, said women should be aware of any changes in the breast tissue. “Some of the signs include swelling, lump, skin dimpling, pain in the breast or nipples, changes to the breast tissue like redness or scaling, and nipple discharge. Women in the UAE tend to be diagnosed in the later stages when treatment becomes more difficult,” she said.

Dr Pamela Munster, breast cancer survivor and speaker for the Think Pink campaign, said that in her experience as a guest speaker at several breast cancer awareness initiatives in the UAE and as per data from Al Ain University, only a small percentage of women in the UAE conduct regular breast self-exams (BSE) and clinical breast exams (CBE), with even fewer opting for mammograms.

Dr Munster, a US-based professor at the Department of Medicine (oncology), University of California, was diagnosed in the early stage of breast cancer and is now is remission.

She said: “I estimate that about 15 per cent of women in the UAE undergo self and clinical exams, and about 10 per cent opt for mammograms. Regular screening is integral to catch and treat the disease early.”

She added that regular screenings, self- and clinical breast exams are recommended for women, starting with their 20s. “However, if a woman has a family history of breast and ovarian cancers, screening should be done even earlier.”