‘CML is chronic, not terminal - one can live with it and lead a productive life' – Dr Sawsan Al Madhi
26th Jan 2014: Cancer advocacy in the UAE is taking new shape with the Friends of Cancer Patients charitable society's (FoCP) formation of Chronic Myloid Leukemia (CML) Support Group in the Emirates.
The newly-constituted support group met for the first time on Saturday to engage with the UAE community at large, comprising patients, their families, the medical fraternity as well as NGOs, to spell out its objectives.
Besides highlighting the need to raise awareness about this particular type of Leukemia, the meeting sought to stress that CML is chronic, and not terminal - a categorisation, it said, was harming the interests of CML patients.
“We want to increase awareness about CML so that the patients can receive maximum support from all quarters. CML patients are not terminally ill, and with proper medication, can lead full lives., said Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, Secretary General for the Friends of Cancer Patients charitable society (FoCP).
“According to hospital records in the UAE, the incidence of new cases is almost 25-30 patients per year. It is high time that Chronic Myloid Leukemia patients had access to an effective support system which would spread awareness and address problems pertaining to treatment. The community needs to be made aware about issues such as testing for the disease at an earlier stage and recognising the symptoms associated with CML. We want to highlight that CML patients have a good chance – with proper medical care – to overcome the challenges and lead full lives and in turn give back to the community by way of professional and personal excellence. I am sure better awareness would lead to NGOs being more proactive in addressing the needs of CML patients,” Dr Al Madhi added.
The meeting aimed to create awareness around the fact that in reality, Chronic Myloid Leukemia is far from terminal, and that CML patients can lead almost normal and productive lives. The misconception usually leads to financially disadvantaged patients not receiving the required support to afford the expensive medication required for treatment.
One of the objectives of the newly-constituted support group is to empower CML patients with a strong support system with an emphasis on the need for early testing, education on initial symptoms of CML and engaging the medical fraternity as well as NGOs to provide needed support.
43-year old Mohamad Al Badry, a CMLpatient , who was diagnosed at the age of 36 during a routine annual check-up, said, “The formation of the CML Support Group is an important milestone for Chronic Myloid Leukamia patients who aspire to lead normal lives. My message to fellow CML patients is ‘Never give up', and now with this initiative, I'm hopeful that things will improve further for CML patients.”
Awareness about timely testing, diagnosis and line of treatment is very critical for CML patients' survival and their ability to lead normal lives. If left undiagnosed, the disease could advance from Chronic to being Accelerated or even reaching the Blastic stage (wherein 20 per cent or more of the cells in the blood or bone marrow are blast cells.)