The Jordan Breast Cancer Program (JBCP) and Friends Of Cancer Patients (FOCP), a UAE-based nonprofit, jointly organised a two-day workshop that concluded today (July 21) in Sharjah, convening representatives of 10 out of 15 cancer prevention and control entities from across the Arab world in preparation for the 2022 Arab Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.
Participants representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Palestine, Morocco, Jordan, and Sudan gathered to unveil strategies for the regional awareness campaign which gets underway in October, the international Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
On Day 1 of the workshop, participants explored ways to enhance the campaign’s role in taking forward the goals of raising awareness about early detection and prevention of breast cancer to save lives of women in the Arab world. The workshop also delved into ways to effectively communicate breast cancer awareness messages to all segments of the community, and bolster Arab collaboration to combat breast cancer while boosting coordination amongst all entities dedicated to breast cancer prevention.
Several themes for the 2022 Arab Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign were suggested and presented to members of the cancer prevention entities and volunteers. Of these, one will be selected before the launch of the campaign in October.
At the workshop, partners and representatives of the participating entities presented their respective key breast cancer prevention and control achievements implemented as part of the 2021 campaign that raised awareness of the importance of mammography screening to save lives. The interactive session also discussed identifying future steps and planning collaborative projects to raise awareness efforts to reach every Arab woman.
In her opening address, Her Excellency Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, FOCP, emphasised that the preparatory workshop for the 2022 campaign offers the opportunity to innovate and increase the efficiency of raising awareness and initiating behavioural change while also motivating both women and men to participate in breast cancer early detection tests regularly.
She pointed out that FOCP’s resounding accomplishments and success in this direction stemmed from the support, directives, and patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Royal Patron of FOCP and International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).
Prioritizing educational awareness
For her part, in her welcome note, Dr. Reem Al Ajlouni, Director of the Jordan Breast Cancer Program, lauded the FOCP’s role, partnership, and efforts in preparing and guiding all partners of the Arab coalition for breast cancer control at the workshop. She underlined the need to prioritise educational awareness of early detection as breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst all age groups.
“Pink is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness, and I wish we could reach a healthy pink reality that sees greater progress in breast cancer prevention and control because women’s health is integral to overall community health. I also hope that the new partnerships forged with more countries joining the Arab coalition will make a lasting difference by raising awareness through the regional campaign,” she added.
Welcoming participants, Dr. Sawsan Al Madhi, Director General of FOCP, highlighted FOCP’s ongoing efforts and awareness activities in the UAE and debunked a common misconception that young adults are immune to breast cancer. Pointing out FOCP’s experiences in the field, she revealed that breast cancer affects all age groups and called for outlining more comprehensive strategies in local and regional awareness campaigns.
She also urged participants to explore ways to harness the UAE’s success in setting a 100% vaccination rate during the pandemic and to similarly galvanise coordinated action in steering the community towards early detection strategies.
Breast cancer in the UAE
A presentation by Dr. Buthaina Abdullah Ben Belila, Head of the Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health Department at the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), focused on the government’s efforts in combating breast cancer in the UAE. The presentation, comprising indices, statistics, and studies, revealed breast cancer rates in the UAE for varied age groups and detailed the various impediments impacting breast cancer awareness efforts. It also highlighted the importance of timely intervention and appropriate healthcare services for best results and to improve survival rates.
Day 2 of the workshop comprised four sessions. A brainstorming session discussed the suggested themes for the 2022 campaign while in the second session, participants gained insights into the results of the KAP Study in Arabic and examined its recommendations and findings.
In the third session, participants analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and priorities of Arab collaboration in breast cancer awareness campaigns. The fourth session addressed the cooperation mechanisms to effectively target all individuals and groups to raise awareness of breast cancer under the umbrella of the regional Arab campaign in October.
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