More than 100 women with financial difficulties have received the full spectrum of breast cancer care thanks to the DHA’s Basmah initiative, which was launched in 2019.
The initiative makes Dubai authorities the first government entity in the world to provide a complete spectrum of care from screening to treatment for the three types of cancer (breast, colorectal and cervical cancer) under the essential benefit plan (EBP). Prior to the scheme, cancer coverage was limited to Dh150,000. Now there are no sub-limits and coverage is unlimited. Under the initiative, eligible patients are enrolled at Dubai Hospital and they receive treatment at the hospital.
In order to make the initiative work, all approved health insurance providers in Dubai asked policyholders to pay an additional amount of Dh19 and Dh18 for cancer and hepatitis C (HCV) treatment respectively. This sum for cancer is pooled into DHA’s trust account and helps cover the additional cost of these three types of cancer treatment when it crosses the sum insured of the Dh150,000 minimum for low salary band (LSB) workers.
With early diagnosis the chances of survival and minimum intervention greatly increase; we do not have to adopt aggressive therapies.
If any LCB worker who has an EBP (essential benefit policy) is diagnosed with any of the three types of cancer, under the Basmah programme the patient is referred to the cancer centre of excellence in Dubai Hospital and is enrolled in the Cancer Patient Support Programme (Cancer PSP) if they meet the eligibility criteria.
Dr Moaza Al Bedwawi, General Surgeon at Dubai Hospital and Founder of Pink Ride Hope, says, “This initiative is a blessing for patients and also for healthcare workers as we feel truly grateful to see patients with financial difficulties get complete treatment so that they can be cured and lead a healthy and happy life. However, the one message I strongly advocate, is to educate all community members about the importance of timely diagnosis. Despite all the awareness and initiatives such as the wonderful Basmah programme, we still find that women do not come forward in time. Even when they see symptoms, they often try to ignore it.
“With early diagnosis the chances of survival and minimum intervention greatly increase; we do not have to adopt aggressive therapies straight away. Even in case of surgery, early detection helps us plan the breast reconstruction and nipple preservation procedure in a much better manner.” She said that, through the Basmah initiative, patients have a tracking and follow-up system to ensure the whole treatment is smooth and streamlined.
In addition to the Basmah initiative, the authority also has a Health Fund Department that coordinates with various charities to help patients with financial difficulties get the treatment in time.
Dubai cancer survivor
Rolla Mohammed Ismail, 47 years, a Jordanian expatriate living in UAE for the last 42 years, is a cancer survivor. She has been coordinating with the Health Fund Department for her treatment in Dubai.
Ismail had two mastectomies, one in 2015 and one in 2019, and she is currently cancer free and is continuing her treatment including her hormone medications and regular follow-ups at Dubai Hospital.
She regularly needs to do all her scans and tests including biopsies and ultrasounds to ensure she checks her cancer free status regularly. She recently got a tumour checked as she has a tumour in her throat but thankfully it was not malignant. Ismail was an English teacher but now she is handling administrative work as it is less hectic than being a full-time teacher.
She is a mother of two boys aged 15 and 16 years respectively. She says, “I went late for diagnosis. I only went when it started to pain me but once I felt the pain I was at the clinic the next day. I was informed I’m already in stage three. Within one week I got a mastectomy done as I did not want to delay my treatment at all. My advice to women is to make sure they get regular health check-ups done and they should follow self-breast examination as well as get a mammogram done once a year after the age of 40, whether they have symptoms or not. Those with a family history should go earlier.”
“Now, after my diagnosis, my sister gets a check-up done every six months. There have been many advancements in medicine and the survival rate is much higher than before, therefore, the key is to be aware and regularly check yourself.”
“My thinking about life has totally changed. God has given me this gift of a second chance. Despite all the changes my body underwent, I am blessed to be alive. I make sure I laugh, spend time with my family, especially with my boys and I surround myself with positive and empowering people. Each day is a gift.”
“I want to thank all the doctors, the health fund department, all the medical staff and my doctors Dr Moaza, Dr Isaf and Kaffa, she’s a social worker at Dubai Hospital. She has always been there for me. She is very helpful and treats me with love and positivity.”