Early breast cancer screening low among Qatar women

July 11, 2011

The percentage of women in Qatar engaging in early breast cancer screening programme is alarmingly low, an ongoing study indicates.

“It is widely understood that the early screening helps in early detection of breast cancer,” Tam Donnelly, one of the researchers exploring breast cancer screening practices among Arab women in Qatar, said.

“We need to understand why women in Qatar are not aware of early screening and create appropriate and effective intervention that can encourage women to change their attitudes,” Donnelly said in her research article, recently published in ‘Avicenna’, that unveiled that women in Qatar often seek medical treatment of breast cancer in very late phases of the disease.

Around 20 percent of all cancer cases receiving treatment in the Al Amal Hospital, in 2007 were breast cancer, the article said, Qatari daily The Peninsula reported.

Leading cancer diagnosis

Qatar’s National Cancer Disease Registry data of 2006 shows that breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis, far greater than other most common cancers for Qatari women.

World Health Organisation (WHO) reported similar findings stating that breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in Qatar and both its incidence rate and mortality rate are significantly higher than any other type of cancer in Qatar for women.

In addition, when compared with the most common cancers for men, such as lung and prostate cancer, breast cancer incidence and mortality is still considerably higher than any other type of cancer in Qatar for both sexes.

The ‘Avicenna’ article also reveals that even though the breast cancer incidence rate in developed countries increased in the last few decades, it has stabilised or increased only slightly in recent years.

In contrast, breast cancer incidence rate is increasing rapidly in the Middle Eastern countries and Qatar is no exception.

The National Cancer Disease Registry reported a sharp increase of 57.1 percent in total cancer cases in Qatar in the period from 2002 to 2006 compared with 1991 to 1996.

While in the period 1991 to 1996, a total of 170 breast cancer cases amongst both Qatari and non-Qatari women were recorded, the figure shot up to 360 cases in the period from 2002-2006.

The increasing and high incidence rate for breast cancer in Qatar can be associated with multiple life style risk factors as fatty diets, physical inactivity and obesity.

Apart from this, changes in breastfeeding patterns, high age at first birth, adoption of western lifestyles, improved status of the health care, an increase in life expectancy, and improved control of communicable diseases all play a major role.

“We need to reinforce and encourage healthy lifestyle and decrease death rate among women who face cancer risk. By talking to women in Qatar and exploring their thoughts about breast cancer and examining it, we hope to raise their awareness and remove their fears. In addition, Arab men and the health care providers here should provide information about the best way to support women to fight cancer,” she said.

For initiating a change, the research team will through direct interviews collect data to understand the breast health experience of Arab women in Qatar.

The team will also identify and implement strategies that assist women to participate in breast cancer screening activities and evaluate, facilitate, and sustain the participation of Arab women in breast cancer screening activities as breast self-examination (BSE), clinical breast examination (CBE) and mammography.

The study will explore intervention strategies that can increase awareness of early detection and participation in breast cancer screening.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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