Justifiably, the 'C' word is feared by many people, but is often worsened by the many preconceptions about it. In Egypt, there is a distinct lack of awareness surrounding cancer and early detection, leading to higher mortality rates, as well as stressful and difficult recovery periods.
According to the National Cancer Institute at Cairo University, 31.5% of their cancer cases are breast cancer. It is estimated that one in nine Egyptian families will be affected by breast cancer, making access to information and support groups even more crucial. With this in mind, several organisations have been set up to educate on breast cancer; offering information, support and help with early detection.
One of these, the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt (BCFE), was set up by 24 individuals with the aim of representing all factions involved – health care professionals, breast cancer patients and the general public – by offering detection, education, support and even fundraising.
BCFE have set up an accessible website full of information on the several different forms of breast cancer, cysts and the different treatments available, while a question and answer page helps eliminate misconceptions surrounding the illness.
BCFE are aware that diagnosis, along with long-term treatment, often affect a person's overall health and self-esteem, and therefore offer advice on how to minimise the harmful effects on the body, as well as on personal relationships. Recently, BCFE hosted a 'Look Good Feel Good' workshop with the aim of boosting the self-esteem of breast cancer survivors. Sponsors such as Faces and Novartis donated beauty products to the workshops which revolved around beauty, fashion and societal tips. On top of addressing post-treatment hurdles, risk factors such as obesity have also been identified. Subsequently, BCFE hosts an annual sports day, bringing survivors, athletes, ambassadors, friends and families together for a day of fitness, awareness and activities. You can find out more on the BCFE website.
Similarly, the Women's Health Outreach Program (WHOP) provides a plethora of information on breast cancer, treatment options and FAQs. The main aim of this organisation is not only to spread awareness, but to make cancer screenings accessible to all women, all over Egypt.
In May 2011, WHOP won the UN Public Service Award for their free screening program – which is essentially a mammogram. Breast cancer incidences increase dramatically in women between the ages of 45 and menopause, therefore, WHOP invite women over the age of 45 to undergo annual free breast examinations carried out by experts, using state of the art equipment. Patients can go to their local hospital or, alternatively, mobile clinics set out to visit women living in more rural areas.
If the patient attends yearly, older photographs can be compared with newer ones, increasing the accuracy of the examinations. Should the results of the mammogram be unusual, women are given the option of further free screenings as well as being offered and advised on the treatment they'll need. To donate and learn more, check out the WHOP website.
Of course, support networks are very important after surviving breast cancer. HOPE Egypt was set up in 2004 by a group of people made up of both breast cancer survivors and those who have been touched by the disease in one way or another.
HOPE recognises the need for spreading awareness and host support groups and meetings that provide an informal counselling service to help alleviate burdens, as well as share experiences and coping strategies. The staff at HOPE are trained in grief and conflict management, help with problem-solving and encourage open discussion in a friendly and welcoming environment – for both Arabic and English speakers. Discover more about these initiatives on the HOPE Egypt website.
Breast cancer can be a scary and daunting experience, and no-one should have to go through it alone, making the establishment of supportive organisations even more important. Treatment for cancer is available in Egypt and breast cancer can be cured, however, early detection is important and can only be discovered if people are adequately educated about the early signs, as well as the different types of breast cancer.
A 'Move for the Cure' dance event is taking place on the 8th June 2013, where one third of all the profit will go towards the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt. To learn more about the event, click here.