October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual worldwide campaign to raise understanding of the importance of breast cancer treatment, education and research. Across the occupied Palestinian territory, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is working to improve breast cancer care and supports multi-disciplinary teams of UK specialist oncologists, surgeons, nurses, and radiologists to make regular visits to Gaza and the West Bank.
Last month, a MAP-supported breast cancer mission travelled to Gaza. The team comprised of Dr Ashwini Sharma, Consultant Radiologist, and Dr Gerard O’Hare, Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist. Based at three hospitals, Al Shifa, Rantisi and the Gaza European, they delivered training to local health workers caring for women affected by the disease, teaching them new techniques to improve outcomes and quality of life for breast cancer patients.
Living in Gaza presents many barriers to breast cancer care. A woman treated by the breast cancer mission, Suhair Jaber, told MAP:
“I hoped I would get the cancer removed as soon as I was diagnosed. If only things were available here, for example, if it were easy to get a medical transfer permit, or find the medicine, it would have been so much easier on me. But it is difficult to find your medicines, or travel for medical treatment. There are a lot of things we do not have here in Gaza due to the occupation.”
One of the medics trained by the UK specialists, Ibrahim Zaqout, Head Nurse at the Tumour Clinic in Rantisi Hospital, outlined how shortages of cancer drugs undermine the treatment of breast cancer patients.
“A patient would start with a specific treatment, then this treatment is no longer available in Gaza, and after three to four months, the treatment becomes available again. This results in deepening the crisis, as the cancer cells become resistant to the treatment. This would require a change to another treatment protocol, and then the patient goes into another crisis similar to the one before.”
Writing on the week’s training Dr O’Hare said:
“I would like to thank the fundraisers who have enabled this project to happen who recognise the fact that cancer is a serious public health issue in Palestine. It has a devastating effect on patients and their families. And there is hardly a family in Palestine that has not been affected by cancer. I hope that in the future the small changes that this project bring, make a significant improvement for some of the patients who are diagnosed with cancer.”
(Source / 19.10.2018)