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Shaikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) marks ‘Colon Cancer Awareness Month’ this March by launching a ‘Where Women Take Care of Women’ campaign. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Shaikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) marks ‘Colon Cancer Awareness Month’ this March by launching a ‘Where Women Take Care of Women’ campaign.

SSMC is ensuring female patients are paired with female endoscopists “to elevate their comfort and experience” during colonoscopies. As part of SSMC’s campaign, seven female endoscopists are spearheading colonoscopies for female patients.

SSMC said several international studies indicate that, due to the uncomfortable nature of endoscopies in general, female patients are more likely to factor gender when choosing their physicians, most often choosing female physicians.

‘Cultural stigma’

This has been “further cemented” in a Middle East based article recently published in the ‘Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Journal’, which suggests that the cultural stigma around gastroenterological procedures and their nature of being inherently invasive and involving intimate body areas have shown to enhance patient preference for “provider gender concordance”. Endoscopic procedures are also likely to provoke fear and embarrassment, which have proven to be potential barriers to care, SSMC said.

What is colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is the exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. If and when necessary, polyps — a small clump of cells that form on the lining of the colon and that can develop into colon cancer — and other types of abnormal tissue, can be removed through the scope.

Leading cancer

As per the ‘Abu Dhabi Health Statistics 2017’ report by the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi, colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the emirate, with it prevailing in males as the leading cause of death compared to other cancers, and fourth for women following breast, ovary and bronchus and lung cancers.

‘Common misconception’

Dr Michael Wallace, consultant hepatologist and gastroenterologist and division chair of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, SSMC, said: “There is a common misconception that colon cancer only affects males, this is statistically and biologically not true. Females are also prone to colon cancer and should be encouraged to undergo regular colonoscopies.”

He added: “Females above the age of 40 must be regularly completing colonoscopies to detect any abnormalities earlier, drastically improving their prognosis. By realising and acknowledging that a significant proportion of women patients prefer women endoscopists, we are transforming patient care to create an optimal, comfortable environment for females to prioritise their health and well-being.”

Simplest method

Dr Noura Al Ali, general and colorectal surgery consultant, SSMC, said: “Throughout my career, I have always noticed how stiff and nervous female patients get when I mention the word colonoscopy. It is our responsibility as their health care providers to adopt a caring, empathetic, and compassionate approach to ensure they agree to the procedure and are comfortable throughout. The simplest method of ensuring female patients adhere to regular colonoscopies is by making sure the person conducting the procedure is of the same gender and is completely understanding of their concerns.”

SSMC is one of the UAE’s largest hospitals for serious and complex care and a joint-venture partnership between Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) and Mayo Clinic.