A new cancer treatment centre will be built in Abu Dhabi to handle growing numbers of patients being treated for the disease.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi broke ground on the seven-storey, 17,000 square metre facility on Monday.
Medics said the centre – a cube-shaped building next to the existing 13-floor hospital tower – will expand the treatment available at the hospital. It is due to open in 2021 and feature the latest facilities and equipment.
Waleed Al Muhairi, chairman of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said cancer remains the leading reason for patients in the UAE to travel abroad for treatment.
“One of the biggest challenges we face here as Emiratis is the treatment and management of cancer,” he said.
“Cancer accounts for 16 per cent of all deaths in the UAE and is the third most common cause of death in Abu Dhabi. For patients a cancer diagnosis can result in months and even years of treatment."
Every sixth death worldwide is due to cancer, making it the second leading cause of death - behind cardiovascular diseases.
Cancer rates in the UAE have increased by 62 per cent between 2008 and 2017, according to the World Health Organisation. However, this rise is largely a result of increased screening and improved diagnosis.
The Department of Health Abu Dhabi has revealed that about 4,500 new cases of cancer are reported each year. The most common types found in the UAE are lung, breast and colon cancer.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has dealt with more than 2,000 cancer cases since it opened four years ago, Mr Al Muhairi said.
The hospital offers chemotherapy and surgery for residents, and the new centre will begin offering radio therapy.
In addition to medical treatment, the centre is geared towards the additional support that patients need.
“This process can place significant stress on the patients and their families. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can take their toll physically, emotionally and even psychologically," he said.
"Those stresses can exacerbate when some or all the therapy of therapy is provided overseas. However, cancer remains the leading reason for patients in the UAE to travel abroad for treatment. To address the situation and complement it, we are breaking ground in the leading oncology centre."
Only a few government hospitals provide radiotherapy with the majority of patients sent to Tawam hospital in Al Ain for treatment.
"We have large expectations that we will drive changes to the current patient exportation. We know for a fact that keeping services to on the ground not only improves on the services but also outcomes," said Abdullah Al Shamsi, Head of Mubadala Healthcare.
The centre will be modelled on Cleveland Clinic Ohio’s Taussig Cancer Centre, ranked fifth in the United States for cancer care.
Dr Rakesh Suri, chief executive at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and a top surgeon, said decreasing cancer deaths is being treated as a national priority.
“Since opening our doors at 2015, we’ve treated literally hundreds of patients with this terrible diagnosis. We diagnose tumours every day utilising advanced therapies here for the first time in the UAE,” he said.
“Today marks another monumental step forward in the journey to cure and eradicate cancer not only in the UAE but around the world."