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Amid pandemic, UAE marks World Cancer Day today

The new national campaign “New Normal, Same Cancer” enlightens and thereby encourages everyone across the country not to forego medical consultations.

Too much concern has been put into the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) these past 13 months. On this day of Feb. 4, Thursday, and in conjunction with the annual “World Cancer Day” and the start of the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention-inspired one-year-old “Gulf Cancer Awareness Week,” the call to un-shelf everything and everyone to address the over 100 types of recorded cancer rings again.

For the third and last year and  spearheaded by the over 1,200-strong Union International for Cancer Control (UICC), the 2021 “World Cancer Day” theme is the empowering powerful “I Am and I Will.”

Over in the UAE, the UICC member Sharjah-headquartered Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), the Emirates Oncology Society (EOS), dedicated to promoting and fostering the multi-dimensional care for cancer patients, and the British-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca, relative to the “Gulf Cancer Awareness Week,” launched on Wednesday, the new national campaign: “New Normal, Same Cancer. This is to enlighten and thereby encourage everyone across the country not to forego medical consultation and obligatory time-tabled screenings; each one must boldly approach specialists and the trustworthy regarding noticeable cancer signs and symptoms. The core message: “Don’t Wait. Contact Your Doctor. Get Checked.”

This is so since throughout 2020 when the seemingly intelligent SARS-CoV2 virus began striking almost all countries, there had been a 40 per cent drop in patients being diagnosed with cancer globally.

EOS president Dr. Humaid Al Shamsi is hopeful that with the “New Normal, Same Cancer,” people would be emboldened to drop by health facilities and hospitals which “are safe to visit” for the consultations, diagnosis and treatment.

Meanwhile, early on asked of his take on the “I Am and I Will” theme,” and in connection to Al Shamsi’ s call for empowerment, Burjeel Specialty Hospital (Sharjah) consultant surgical oncologist Dr. Sadir Alrawi said: “World Cancer Day is a special occasion that reminds us about our duties while treating and caring for cancer patients. It is crucial and important than ever during the COVID19 pandemic.”

Aster Hospital (Mankhool, Dubai) consultant oncologist Dr. Arun Warrier said: “Motivating people through lifestyle modifications and abstaining from carcinogenic substances like tobacco and alcohol itself can prevent a large percentage of cancer. Again, it is imperative of the individual to attend cancer screening tests and to report if they have any early signs and symptoms.”

On the “New Normal, Same Cancer,” FoCP director general Dr. Sawsan Al Madhi said that as the WHO defines health as the physical, psychological, spiritual and social aspects of one’s being, the organisation’s “priority is to ensure that we support people with cancer and those at risk, encouraging them to continue to get the care and support they need.”

Concomitantly and commenting on the “I Am and I Will” theme, Medeor Hospital (Dubai) clinical psychologist Dr. Reena Thomas said the reasons for the lateness of cancer diagnoses are the suspected cases including the stricken, becoming depressed and anxious, feel stigmatised and petrified. These lead to having themselves “drained,” unconfident and traumatised, affecting quality of life.

RAK Hospital-Counselling and Psychology Unit clinical psychologist Prateeksha Shetty pointed out that while the “I Am and I Will” theme is “ in itself empowering and hopeful and can be instrumental in bringing families and communities closer, this should also signal that extremely high attention and consequent action must be delivered on the “overlooked” psychological trauma and burn-out of not only the patients and survivors, but also of all caregivers.”

On the “New Normal, Same Cancer,” AstraZeneca-GCC Oncology Business Unit director Peter Raouf said the pandemic should not thwart anyone from seeking medical care: “We believe it should be an immediate priority to encourage the return to cancer care now without delay.”

Al Zahra Hospital (Dubai) consultant oncologist Dr. Dorai Ramanathan, who shared his opinion on the “I Am and I Will,” was on the same page as Raouf. He pointed out the availability of recent outcomes on diagnostics, treatment and effective management: “Awareness is the key. There should be no guilt nor fear but only hope.”

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