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The Breast Cancer Foundation and Novartis Pharma Infuse Hope on World Cancer Day

13 February, 2017
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We Can, I Can.”

Such a phrase was this year’s annual World Cancer Day (WCD) theme to encourage Egyptian cancer survivors to continue treatment plans, share experiences and challenges, and overcome obstacles on their journey toward recovery.

The Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt (BCFE) and Novartis Pharma brought together leading treatment specialists, including oncologists and surgeons, patients, and renowned painter Khaled El Samahy, who led an art session for survivors sharing a message of hope through art.

“This year’s WCD theme ‘We Can, I Can’ explores how everyone, together or individually, can help reduce the global burden of cancer, which affects 14 million people annually worldwide. Today we celebrate scientific breakthroughs that have advanced the battle against cancer driving tangible progress,” said Ashraf El Ghandour, Professor of Hematology and Deputy Dean of Medicine at the Alexandria University.

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), for example, has been transformed from a deadly to a curable disease, with bone marrow transplants down from 34% to 3% over the last five years. For 15 years, targeted therapies have helped control CML and halt its progress. CML affects bone marrow cells, spreading to the blood and other parts of the body. Each year, 1.5-2 out of every 100,000 individuals are at risk of CML, while the average age of a patient is around 40 years old, El Ghandour said.

Urging research and funding for advanced breast cancer, Heba El Zawahry, Professor of Oncology and Head of the Chemotherapy Department at the National Cancer Institute, said: “Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer affecting women worldwide, and yet despite significant medical advances, most of the focus is on awareness and prevention, often to the detriment of stage 4 patients who receive far less attention."

Mohamed Shaalan, Surgical Oncology Professor at Cairo University and Head of the BCFE, stressed the importance of scientific research for advanced cancer, with sufficient technical and financial support made available. “Doctors must openly discuss treatment options and potential side-effects so that patients can make informed decisions. New complementary treatment options such as yoga are also vital to improving patients’ mental and physical well-being.”

He revealed the results of exploratory research into advanced breast cancer, conducted by the BCFE and involving 165 advanced breast cancer patients

Over 85% of those surveyed said that their ability to perform housework had been compromised as a result of their illness, 51.7% of patients’ outlook concerning their disease improved following discussions with their physicians, 63% called for greater availability of information on how to cope with advanced stages of breast cancer, 83.2% believe that doctors involving patients in their treatment plans is of great value, 72.5% of patients stressed the importance of providing a wider variety of treatment options for advanced breast cancer, and 77% of participants noted that they face challenges in acquiring breast cancer treatments and in finding patient support groups.

Cancer survivors shared their experiences at the event. “I was diagnosed at 24, I had plans and dreams and was utterly devastated. Situations like these often reveal a strength we never knew we had. Eventually, I learned how to accept the situation and treatment advances gave me hope,” narrated Nada Shateela, a leukemia survivor. She advised everyone to be considerate in their dealings with cancer patients, as psychological well-being greatly contributes to treatment success.

Another survivor, Yasmine Gheith, recalled: “I was diagnosed on September 1 and made the quick decision to undergo surgery. I later learned that early detection significantly improves the chances of a cure, reaching 90% in some instances. This makes me hopeful as does hearing many stories of survival."

“Sometimes the disease can be a great motivator, and I am now writing to help people through difficult times. I hope all patients are surrounded by positivity, hopeful in the knowledge that medical progress now means that a cure is possible,” the breast cancer survivor said.

In the lead-up to celebrations, Zamalek Runners organized a run to raise the voices of life without cancer, encouraging action to reduce the impact of cancer on patients, their families and communities.

Tags breast cancer cancer world cancer day