Friends of Cancer Patients' concludes first round of pan-UAE campaign for assimilation of metastatic breast cancer patients
2 July 2013: The Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) charitable society has concluded its nationwide campaign for drawing attention to the often-overlooked and stigmatised segment of cancer community – metastatic breast cancer patients; those patients with cancer that has spread beyond the breast and throughout the body with little hope for a cure. It is the first such pan-UAE campaign focussing on metastatic cancer patients in the Emirates.
The first round of the campaign was launched at University Hospital Sharjah on 27th of June, the second event was organised at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi on 30th June, and concluded its third in Tawam Hospital, Al Ain, on the 2nd of July.
Being run under FoCP's acclaimed breast cancer awareness campaign ‘Pink Caravan' and titled ‘Breaking the Silence', this landmark campaign saw a rallying of metastatic patients, physicians, social workers, nurses, and the media to raise awareness of realities that surround metastatic breast cancer. Speaking about the campaign, Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, Secretary General for the Friends of Cancer Patients charitable society (FoCP) said, “Pink Caravan is doing this pan-UAE tour firstly to educate the medical community and secondly the media about metastatic breast cancer as it is now accepted internationally as a chronic, rather than a fatal disease.
A recently conducted worldwide research and survey of over 1,200 women with metastatic breast cancer revealed that patients with advanced breast cancer feel isolated, lack emotional support and also need more targeted information about metastatic breast cancer, and this what Pink Caravan plans to work on after the tour.
Dr Al Madhi added: “In all of the hospitals visited across UAE, we had a live one on one interview with metastatic breast cancer patients, in order to give a voice and human touch to their story, making it more relevant and closer to the audience.
“Cancer is never easy to deal with. When a person is diagnosed with cancer it places an immense strain, not just on the patient but on the entire family and friends as well. This strain becomes magnified exponentially if the cancer reaches the metastatic phase and even supporters of the patients get fatigued. The medical prognosis at this point is bleak and this leads many metastatic cancer patients to feel hopeless and left out. Society as a whole tends to look at them as a ‘lost cause', a perspective that is extremely dispiriting to the patient.”
Dr Al Madhi said: “Life is precious and, even though the medical outlook for these patients might not always be good, they are still very much alive and able to contribute to their families and communities. Our goal is to educate the public about the challenges that these patients face and to mobilise the community to take these individuals into their hearts.”
Dr Mohammad Jaloudi, Head of Oncology and Haematology Department at Tawam Hospital, remarked, “Far from being beyond help, with proper treatment metastatic cancer patients can live for quite a long time, unlike the common misconception that people hold. They are capable of living full and productive lives, often for years, and it is this point that we want to emphasise. These patients have so much to give and they are real heroes. On a daily basis, they deal with the difficult reality that their lives are coming to an end, yet they still choose not to give up and to go on, which makes them an inspiration to everyone.”
The campaign included talks by Dr Mohamed Jaloudi aimed as dispelling some of the common misconceptions about metastatic cancer and a live interview with metastatic breast cancer patients facilitated by Dr Sawsan Al Mahdi. In addition, a video telling the personal story of three metastatic breast cancer patients was shown and a number of patients were recognised for their continued fortitude in living with this disease.
Commenting on the campaign's success, Dr Al Madhi said, “The response we have received has been overwhelmingly positive and FoCP is currently working to extend the duration of campaign. There is still much work to be done to bring metastatic breast cancer patients out from the shadows and we look forward to meeting this challenge head on.”