Posted on October 29, 2015

Hamad General Hospital (HGH) recently held a campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer for patients, families, and visitors. The campaign, marked under the banner of Pink October, featured a variety of activities organized by the Community Affairs and Patient Engagement Department at the hospital. The two-day campaign involved teams of subject matter experts from Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) National Center for Cancer Care and Research, Al Wakra Hospital (AWH), and HGH who all led a number of insightful presentations and educational lectures in English and Arabic for patients, focusing on prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer.

Executive Director of Community Affairs and Patient Engagement at HGH, Ms. Maitha Al Bouainain, commented: “We are pleased to organize this important campaign at HGH to educate the public and our patients about how they can join in the fight against breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Qatar and understanding this disease can really help save lives as the sooner it is detected the more effective the treatment.” “This awareness-raising campaign also supports HMC’s efforts to inform the public about how they can take charge of their health, be proactive and lead a healthy lifestyle,” Ms. Al Bouainain added.

During the campaign, patients had the opportunity to gain knowledge about different topics pertinent to breast cancer; such as the subject of breast cancer and breastfeeding, the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, and the relationship between breast cancer and smoking. A special demonstrative session allowed the participants to learn how to do self-examination to check for symptoms of breast cancer. The participants were also encouraged to ‘Be Breast Aware’ and were reminded of five points: to know what is normal, know what changes to look for, to regularly look at and feel their breasts, to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible if any changes are observed, and to go for breast cancer screening if they are over the age of 45.

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Representatives of the campaign also distributed educational brochures and pink ribbons - the international symbol of breast cancer awareness - to the public at the main lobby of HGH. The campaign also saw the participation of Mrs. Kirpal Kaur Matharoo, a 63-year-old breast cancer survivor who successfully beat breast cancer after undergoing five sessions of chemotherapy and three rounds of surgery, including reconstructive surgery in 2012.

Mrs. Matharoo recalled her initial breast cancer diagnosis, which was 10 years ago in the UK and said: “I was devastated, shocked and in disbelief. I was healthy; I did not smoke, or drink, so I kept thinking how could this happen to me?” For her, like many others, she said cancer was a negative word and implied a serious disease with no cure. With the support of her loving family, friends and a number of charities in the UK, Mrs. Matharoo said she gained motivation to become a fighter and help other women with breast cancer combat their illness. She mentioned that meeting individuals who had been on a similar journey to hers was what really helped her carry on. “It is easy to become depressed and seclude yourself after a breast cancer diagnosis, however, talking to others and building a network [of support] is what really helps you cope better,” she said. 

Mrs. Matharoo talked about her treatment experience and said she has been delighted to see some of the leading surgeons from the UK, including Lord Darzi, who treated her, helping to further strengthen Qatar’s cancer care services. She recalled some of the challenges she faced during the treatment saying: “The one thing I feared the most was losing my hair, but I was fortunate not to lose any because of the option I was offered during my treatment of wearing an iced cap. This helps in minimizing the impact of the treatment on hair follicles.” 

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Mrs. Matharoo said that through her interaction with women during the breast cancer awareness activities at AWH and HGH, she realized that there are similarities in the way breast cancer is not discussed openly in the UK and Qatar. “Breast cancer is one of the most treatable cancers with so many treatment options. It is a shame that women are embarrassed to talk about it.” She related that her experience with breast cancer has allowed her a new lease on life.

“I have become more nutritionally aware and try to include more cancer-fighting super foods within my diet. I have actually started growing kale in my garden,” she said. She encouraged women in Qatar to attend breast cancer screenings and look out for signs of breast cancer by engaging in regular self-examination. “Do not wait for signs to become stronger – acting early can lead to a full recovery. I am a living example of that,” she said.

Mrs. Matharoo has been engaged in a number of activities aimed to raise awareness and educate people about early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. She has been involved in fundraising for cancer charities in the UK, participated in radio interviews in a number of languages for women who are non-English speakers, and has also set up an Asian cancer support group in London to encourage the Indian community there to speak about breast cancer – a platform used by many women to share their stories with the community. 

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