Health staff ordered to have cancer screenings

Programme that will involve hundreds of employees in Dubai is announced at the launch of a public awareness campaign.

Qadhi Saeed al Mrooshid, right, the director general of the Dubai Health Authority, says their aim is to educate and create awareness about breast cancer. At left is Dr Essa Kazim of the health authority in a file picture from 2008.
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DUBAI // Women working for Dubai Health Authority were told yesterday that they are to have mandatory screenings for breast cancer. The initiative, announced by Qadhi Saeed al Mrooshid, the authority's director general, as it launched an awareness campaign, will also apply to new female staff.

The programme, in which hundreds of women will be screened, will start in two weeks. It is hoped that "leading by example" will encourage other women to have screenings and make them aware of the risks if they do not. "The biggest problem is lack of awareness, so our aim is to educate and create awareness," said Mr al Mrooshid. "We need to go beyond the hospital and reach the female population in the UAE.

"All females working in the Dubai Health Authority will be leading this initiative by going through the screening themselves. "This is a must. Not just for the current employees, but prospective employees as well. This will be mandatory." Breast cancer is the second most deadly cancer, after lung cancer, in the UAE. It accounts for 28 per cent of all female deaths. Forty-four per cent of cases are fatal, according to Health Authority-Abu Dhabi.

Dr Zaid al Mazam, consultant and head of the breast unit at Rashid Hospital, said of 200 cases of breast illnesses investigated over the past year, cancer was diagnosed in 50. Three of the patients were male. Referring to the mandatory screenings, Dr al Mazam said: "This is the only way to bring attention to the issue, otherwise we will not be able to spread awareness. "With this disease, there is a high chance, as much as 98 per cent, that it can be cured if caught at the beginning.

"Unfortunately, though, the ladies in our society are coming to us with second stage and later, where the situation is much worse." Women who were on duty at the hospital yesterday supported the mandatory screenings. "I think it is very important to do something like this," said Nawal Abou Mustafa, who works in the case management department. "It may stop something major from developing, and it is helpful to do this.

"Women should be doing this from the start, and I feel that every member of staff should be involved so they know more about the subject. With these screenings we can avoid and control any problems." Such an initiative should spread to other government departments, she said, as it would set an example to other women to do the same. The week-long awareness campaign is aimed at schools, government departments, and women's health clubs and social clubs.

Health workers will demonstrate how to conduct self-examinations and what irregularities to look for. "There is a lack of education with this disease," said Mr al Mrooshid. While doctors were capable of dealing with the disease, people were not taking enough action, he added. "We need direct contact to alert them to the dangers of this disease," he said. Dr al Mazam said: "Women between 20 and 40 should go for a breast check-up every three years. Those over 40 years should get a mammogram on a yearly basis."

The hospital said if a lump was found, there was an 80 per cent chance that it would be benign. But, around the world, breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 45 and 55.