Early detection of cancer is crucial to in treating the disease, say UAE experts, adding that despite awareness 60 per cent of the cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages.
Dr Dalia El-Shourbagy, oncologist at Dubai Hospital said, “The biggest challenge that we see is that despite increased awareness efforts, 60 per cent of cancer patients at the hospital are first diagnosed when they are already in the advanced stages of cancer. It is important to understand that the only thing that can change the prognosis of a cancer patient is early diagnosis. Early detection saves lives, leads to fewer complications and better outcomes.
“Of the cases we see, 35 per cent are breast cancer cases and most of them are first diagnosed when they are in the advanced stages. Compared to the last few years, we are still better off, but the aim is to ensure every patient that comes to us is first diagnosed during the early stages of the disease.”
El-Shourbagy added, “The different between the cases we see here and those in western countries is that early diagnosis is more common in western countries and there is a difference in the age of patients, this can be due to several factors including genetics.
“For example, on an average, generally majority of women in their fifteens and early sixties are diagnosed with breast cancer, here the average age is 40 to 55 years.”
In 2012, globally approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths were recorded. The World Economic Forum has stated that cancer will be the most challenging disease for the next fifty years. In the next twenty years, there will be an increase of 70 per cent in the number of cancer cases.
Cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.
El-Shourbagy added, “With advances in science there are high changes of curing the disease with minimum invasion through early detection. In fact, if breast cancer is detected early on, the survival range is 90-98 per cent, however if the disease is detected in the advanced stage, survival is only 27 per cent. Early treatment is the best way to preserve breasts, battle the cancer and is very helpful for those women who need partial or total breast reconstruction as early diagnosis gives plastic surgeons several clinical options to preserve the natural shape and function of the breasts.”
Dr Suad Ahmed, head of clinical prevention and health promotion unit at Dubai Health Authority, said, "The first mammogram should take place at 40 years of age and every year thereafter. Those with a family history of breast cancer should begin screening earlier. If a woman has a first-degree relative with breast cancer, she should opt for yearly mammogram screening 10 years before the age of her relative’s diagnosis. However, she should start regular clinical breast exam and self-exams earlier. In our culture, a married woman, should begin cervical cancer screening three years after she first gets married and then every three years thereafter. Men and women should begin screening for colon cancer from the age of 50 years.”
Ahmed added that according to WHO, around one third of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use.
She said, “We don’t have control on the unmodifiable risks factors but leading a healthy life, early detection and screening is in our hands.”