As many of you know, October is breast cancer awareness month and it is celebrated everywhere in the world to raise awareness about what breast cancer is, its symptoms, its treatment, prevention, healthy lifestyle and to remember those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, survived it and those who have passed on because of it.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Qatar and worldwide. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chance of beating it. Bio-Oil encourages everyone to join the cause and help spread the awareness of breast cancer in Qatar. The world's leading scar and stretch mark product can take care of the scars, but it's the support we all provide that helps to heal!
In this article, we discuss breast cancer in Qatar and how the country is working round-the-clock to try to reduce the number of breast cancer patients and raise their rate of survival.
In Qatar, according to the Qatar National Cancer Registry (QNCR), it accounts for 40% of cancer cases in females of all nationalities, and approximately, 35% of cancer cases among Qatari females. In fact, breast cancer in females ranked 1st amongst all new cases of malignant cancers at 39.41%. In 2015, 1,466 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Qatar. Breast cancer was the number 1 form of cancer and this was followed by colon, rectum and prostate cancers.
The risk of females in Qatar developing breast cancer is 56 per 100,000; most of the females with breast cancer in Qatar are below 60 years of age with a high proportion of them diagnosed at the advanced stage. 16.2% of the females diagnosed with breast cancer in Qatar are between 45 - 49 years old.
According to the National Cancer Early Detection Programme at the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), data indicated that 31,289 women were screened for breast cancer in the period February 2016 - August 2019.
According to world statistics, 1 in every 8 females will get breast cancer at some point during their life and 8 out of 10 females diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history of this cancer, though those who have a blood relative (mother, daughter or sister) with breast cancer are at a higher risk (perhaps, double) of getting breast cancer. However, almost 100% of those diagnosed with breast cancer may survive if treated early on. In fact, the survival rate from malignant breast cancer in Qatar during the period 2013-2016 saw a high of 89.07%.
Though breast cancer is more common in women, men can also have breast cancer, but a man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. In the 2015 report of the Qatar National Cancer Registry (QNCR), the Ministry of Public Health indicated that 248 people were diagnosed with a malignant form of breast cancer. Of these cases, 24 were men, and the remaining 242 were women.
Why does 1 in every 8 females get breast cancer and why is breast cancer in women in Qatar ranked first amongst all new cases of malignant cancers in women at 39.41%?
But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn't necessarily mean you'll develop breast cancer. Many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being females
If diagnosed early on, breast cancer is treatable and patients can be cured of the disease. The most common breast cancer symptom is a new lump or mass in the breast, but there are other symptoms that may include irritation of the skin, dimpling of the breast, pain in the nipple, retraction of the nipple (turning inwards), swelling of all or a part of the breast, discharge from the nipple, and thickening or redness of the skin of the breast or the nipple.
Breast cancer is the result of cells within the breast growing in an abnormal pattern. These cells have the ability to divide much faster as compared to the healthy cells in the breast and pile up with each other. This piling up of these abnormal cells forms a lump or a mass inside the breast, and these cells can even metastasize (spread) when they break away from the place they piled up and then travel from the breast to other parts of the body like the nymph nodes and cause cancer in other parts of the body as well..
More often than not, breast cancer starts in a breast’s milk producing ducts, but can also start from other tissue or cells present in the breast.
A breast cancer risk factor can be anything that increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
A lot of research has been conducted on breast cancer as it is one of the leading cancer’s in women, with 1 in every 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Though researchers have indicated that one’s lifestyle, environment one lives in, and hormones can increase the risk of this form of cancer, they still aren’t certain why some people who have the risk factors don’t get the disease, and yet there are some who don’t have any risk factors and are still diagnosed with it.
The main factors that contribute towards an increased risk of breast cancer include:
According to scientific research, at least 5-10% of breast cancers are inherited from immediate family members (mother, sister, daughter) and are associated with the mutation of genes. If an immediate family member has been diagnosed with breast cancer or some other form of cancer, then it is recommended that females in Qatar get a blood test done to be on the safe side.
Females are much more at risk of developing breast cancer as compared to men. According to a report published by the Qatar National Cancer Registry (QNCR), in 2015, 248 people in Qatar were diagnosed with a malignant form of breast cancer; 24 were male, and 242 were females.
As females grow older, the chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer grows as well. According to breastcancer.org, approximately, 85-90% of breast cancers are the result of mutation or abnormality of genes which are caused by the process of aging as well as the general ‘wear and tear’ of the body.
Females who have had a biopsy done of their breast, in which lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast was indicated, are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and those have already been diagnosed with cancer in one of their breasts are 3-4 times more likely to get the disease in a different section of the same breast or the other one..
According to data on obesity (a Body-Mass Index [BMI of over 25]) published by the Ministry of Public Health’s (MoPH) 2012 STEPS report, the percentage of overweight people in Qatar (71.8% males, 68.3% in females) is higher than the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global prevalence of 39% which is already a high figure.
These 68.3% obese females in Qatar have an increased risk of getting diagnosed with the most common form of cancer in women than those that are able to maintain a healthy weight.
Females who started their menstruation before the age of 12 are at an increased risk factor of getting breast cancer later on in life while women who reach menopause after the age 55 are at an increased risk. The reason for this is that the longer a female menstruates, the more she is exposed to hormones like progesterone and estrogen, and the more the risk increases.
Females who have not had their first child till after the age of 30 or have not been able to carry out a full-term pregnancy, may be diagnosed with breast cancer later on in their lives because a full-term pregnancy and getting pregnant before 30 helps breast cells mature completely and also grow more regularly. This can protect females from breast cancer.
females who breastfeed for more than a year, are at a lesser risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, because
1. Milk production on a daily basis limits the cells of the breasts to mutate or become abnormal
2. Most females are prone to eating healthier foods and following a healthy lifestyle while they are breastfeeding to ensure a steady supply of milk
3. The estrogen levels in the body are less as many females have less menstruation cycles (in addition to the nine missed menstrual cycles during pregnancy) while they are breastfeeding.
It is believed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can cause breast cancer, and that’s why now, most women have stopped opting for HRT after menopause which was normally being given to females to reduce its symptoms that included mood swings, fatigue, bone density loss and hot flashes, etc.)
There are two kinds of HRT:
1. Combination HRT (contains estrogen and progesterone): Combination HRT is known to increase the risk of breast cancer by approximately 75%, even if it is used for a short duration of time.
2. Estrogen-only HRT: This HRT can increase the chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer if it is used for more than 10 years.
Females are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer that have received some form of radiation treatment to their chest area as child or as a young adult.
Smoking is the cause of many diseases which include breast cancer, especially in females who are younger, and in those who are exposed to second-hand smoke after menopause. According to the MoPH’s 2012 STEPS, 16.4% of the Qatari population smoked; males were 26 times more likely than females to smoke (31.9% versus 1.2%).
The exposure to second hand smoke in Qatar within restaurants, workplaces and households was:
Females who drink alcohol even just three times a week are at a higher risk of breast cancer than those who don’t drink it because the more alcohol that is consumed the higher the levels of estrogen and other hormones that are cancer causing accumulate in the body.
Though the risk factors are many, it is possible to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer if the following preventions are kept in mind and followed:
It is important to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day at least five days a week to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of breast cancer.
It is important that females of all ages eat a healthy, balanced diet and lead a healthy lifestyle to prevent the risks associated with breast cancer. Unhealthy foods should be removed from the diet, and replaced with fruits, vegetable, legumes, beans, chicken and fish; red meat should be limited.
If obese, weight must be reduced as obesity has a high risk of breast cancer associated with it.
As discussed above, smoking is detrimental to health and can cause breast cancer, so it must be stopped.
It is best for females to avoid taking HRT when they hit menopause because of the breast cancer risks associated with the treatment. For females who do opt for HRT, it is important to talk to an experienced medical professional and weigh all the pros and cons before making a decision.
Health providers in Qatar such as the Ministry of Public Health, HMC, PHCC, Sidra Medical and their partners such as the Qatar Cancer Society, are working together to take reduce the risk of breast cancer and care of cancer patients and provide the best health services for them. They encourage females aged 45 to undergo breast cancer early screening. They educate and empower women of their breast health by knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and setting an annual mammography screening appointment. They also encourage healthy lifestyles, because physically active women are less likely to have breast cancer as they maintain a healthy weight.
'Screen For Life’, Qatar’s National Breast and Bowel Cancer Screening programme offers all females in Qatar free breast screening if they are between the ages of 45 and 70 every three years. There are 3 breast screening facilities in Qatar that have been provided by PHCC. These are located at the Al Wakrah, Leabaib and Rawdat Al Khail Health Centers, and the Mobile Screening Unit is also becoming increasing popular and travels to different parts of the country offering free screening for women.
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