Egypt Minister of Health, U.S. Ambassador join to launch new cooperation between Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and Egypt breast cancer advocates
CAIRO, EGYPT— October 21, 2009 — Egypt and its historic Mediterranean seaport, Alexandria, will host the beginning of an extraordinary week of international events designed to bring breast cancer to the forefront of public discussion in the Middle East.
Breast cancer advocates from around the Middle East and the United States will gather at the Suzanne Mubarak Regional Centre for Women’s Health and Development in Alexandria under the auspices of Egypt’s First Lady H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak with the support of the Egypt Ministry of Health and United States Agency for International Development in Egypt (USAID Egypt).
- At 10:30 a.m. October 21, Egypt’s Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Hatem el-Gebaly, will host a public commemoration of Global Breast Cancer Awareness Month named “Breaking the Silence in Egypt” featuring comments by U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey; Hala Moddelmog, President and Chief Executive Officer of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest advocacy and private funding organization for breast cancer research and outreach; Dr. Mohamed Shaalan, Chairman of the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt; Nagwa Shoeb, Director-General of the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement; and Dr. Hassan Sallam, Director of the Suzanne Mubarak Regional Centre for Women’s Health and Development; and a short Komen for the Cure film “Imagine Life Without Breast Cancer.” The officials and Egyptian breast cancer survivors will be available for media interviews. A Ministry of Health mobile mammography van will be on site for the public to view and for women to receive immediate mammography screening, part of Egypt’s National Breast Cancer Screening Program, whose Director, Dr. Dorreya Salem, will also be present.
- On Thursday, October 22, thirty breast-cancer advocates from the Middle East and North Africa will participate in a “Regional Training on Breast Cancer Support Groups” led by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a practical, hands-on seminar providing information and tools that can be used to start support groups. USAID, Komen and the Institute of International Education (IIE) will introduce training courses in breast cancer awareness and advocacy to diverse communities in Egypt including Alexandria, Cairo and Upper Egypt. Advocates from around the Middle East will also discuss the unique needs of their countries.
The events in Alexandria – along with the Egypt Race for the Cure® at the Giza Pyramids on October 24 and the Multidisciplinary Symposium on Breast Disease in Cairo on October 24-27 – are aimed at showcasing Egypt’s leadership in the fight against breast cancer and supporting the Egyptian Ministry of Health’s National Program to Combat Breast Cancer in Egypt. Moreover, the events in Egypt are aimed at energizing the breast cancer movement throughout the Middle East region and raising awareness internationally about the need for early detection of breast cancer. For more details about the week’s events, see Komen’s web site at www.komen.org.
“Breast cancer is a concern for people all over the world. But for the United States and our friends in the Middle East, it is the focus of specific, concentrated, and positive action,” said U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey. “The United States has placed major resources toward promoting early detection of breast cancer and awareness about the disease. We work with many partners, many of whom are represented here today.”
Ambassador Scobey cited USAID Egypt’s work with the Egypt Ministry of Health supporting mobile mammography vans, the trainings with Komen and IIE, as well as research with Johns Hopkins University and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt into the causes of late diagnosis.
“In the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this collaboration in Alexandria begins a week of listening, learning, sharing…and breaking the silence,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “We must break the silence because it saves women’s lives. Raising awareness about breast cancer teaches women and their families that there is hope and possibility after diagnosis. When breast cancer is discovered early, the chances for survival are very good.”
“Soon Egyptians will no longer refer to breast cancer as ‘the wicked disease.’ Now, the public is learning that breast cancer is a curable condition,” said Dr. Mohamed Shaalan, Chairman of the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt. “This remarkable, intensive, passionate, unprecedented cooperation between nations is a message of unity, peace and hope to win the battle against breast cancer.”
In Egypt and many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the incidence of breast cancer is rising, but the disease is usually detected late because of shame, fear and a lack of awareness among the public and first-line health professionals.
- In Egypt, 60 percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage when treatment options are limited. A study of breast-cancer patients in Cairo funded by USAID found that women who discovered symptoms waited more than three months on average before consulting a doctor; and after the first doctor’s visit, another 4½ months passed before effective diagnosis.
- Many believe incorrectly that a diagnosis means certain death. In fact, when breast cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate is high: If a case is diagnosed before a breast lump reaches 1.5 cm in size, patients have an 85 percent chance of being alive 20 years later.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends two main approaches to detecting breast cancer early. Screening is applying a test to people who show no symptoms but who are statistically at risk, using mammography (scanning) or a breast examination by a doctor. Down-staging consists of the educating first-line health staff and the public about early symptoms of cancer and the benefits of early detection and improving the medical system’s procedures for referral and speedy patient flow. Effective down-staging has the potential of detecting early about half of the cases that might otherwise be diagnosed late. For more information about breast cancer, visit www.komen.org (English) or www.bcfe.org (Arabic and English).