Breast cancer survivors speak up for Pink It Now screening initiative
Survivors of breast cancer have spoken of their struggles against the disease in the hope that more women will get screened for the condition.
Jenny Holliday, an American mother-of-two, was found to have breast cancer a year ago, but she is on her way to recovery, thanks to an early screening and the help of friends, family and doctors.
"Being diagnosed with breast cancer is, without doubt, the hardest thing I have been through," she said.
"It was a massive shock, particularly as I have two young children. Every morning, I just knew I had to go on for them and tried to show them that I was OK during my treatment.
"I wanted to show them I wasn’t sick, despite being so tired after the chemotherapy and just wanting to sleep.
"My strength came from those closest to me. I didn’t let breast cancer take me."
Mrs Holliday’s mother travelled from the United States to live with her for five months during her recovery to help while her husband continued to work. Friends rallied round to cook meals and help with the children.
A year on, and the treatment has been a success, although it has been exhausting.
Mrs Holliday supports the Pink It Now project, which is offering free health screenings until the end of the year at Zulekha hospitals in Dubai and Sharjah.
Women can have free consultations with oncologists and take mammograms in the hope that more women will take up the offer.
Now in its fifth year, Pink It Now is part of a wider government initiative to reduce cancer fatalities in the UAE by 18 per cent before 2021.
In 2012, the country registered 568 cases of breast cancer – five times higher than cervical or colorectal cancer.
The free screenings at Zulekha hospitals are helping more women to identify their health problems earlier.
In 2014, 850 women took advantage of the offer and that figure rose to 1,826 last year, with the hospitals aiming to double that number this year.
Dikrayat Saleh, a Yemen-born Briton, was diagnosed with cancer last year and has been receiving treatment at Zulekha Hospital.
"It was the biggest shock of my life," she said.
"I lived a healthy life and had no family history so I didn’t think I would ever get cancer. I had two lumps, which I had checked out. The doctors told me what the treatment was and I accepted it. It is not scary to be screened; it might save your life."
According to a World Health Organisation report, breast cancer has a substantially higher incidence than any other types of carcinoma. In 2012, 25.2 per cent of the world’s female population were afflicted with the disease, with 14.7 per cent of the cases fatal.
Genetic factors can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Carriers of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene are more likely to be predisposed.
Early detection and treatment can reduce fatalities by 98 per cent.
The 2016 Pink It Now campaign was launched by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of State for Tolerance, is a founding board member of the Friends for Cancer Patients charity.
In addition to free X-ray, mammogram and consultations with an oncologist and gynaecologist, the hospital is also offering a 50 per cent discount on ultrasound tests.
To register, call 600524442 or visit pinkitnow.zulekhahospitals.com.