ABU DHABI, 26th October, 2023 (WAM) — Of more than 400 women aged 40 and above in the UAE who were part of a survey by the Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC), nearly a third (34 percent) of the women said they had never booked a mammogram screening.
The SSMC, one of the UAE’s largest hospitals for serious and complex care and a joint-venture partnership between Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and Mayo Clinic, commissioned the survey as part of “Your Health Deserves”, for its Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign, to gain a deeper understanding of how women in the UAE approach breast cancer screening.
Of the more than 400 women surveyed, the SSMC found that approximately 88 percent of the respondents would like to have more control over their health and well-being. However, only 66 percent said they undergo all recommended routine check-ups regularly suggested by their doctor. Nearly a third (34 percent) of the women said they have never booked a mammogram, with this number jumping to 46 percent in Sharjah.
Results further showed that for nearly half of the respondents, the decision to book a mammogram could often take months – a stark contrast to the decisions made regarding other lifestyle appointments.
“The survey results highlight a contradiction between people’s health aspirations and actual attitudes toward screenings, something that requires urgent course correction,” said Dr. Aisha Alsalami, Consultant Medical Oncologist at the SSMC. “Regular check-ups are not just recommended but essential for early detection – especially since early detection means treatment and could be more effective and thereby significantly increase the chances of survival.”
Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women in the UAE, accounting for almost half of cancers diagnosed. Half of breast cancer cases develop in women with no identifiable breast cancer risk factors other than their age (typically over 40); however, if detected early, it is estimated that 98 percent of women can survive the disease.
To better understand how women perceive regular screenings, the survey also assessed the frequency at which women book services such as beauty appointments (for example. nails/ hair/ facial/ massage, etc.), holidays or staycations, car services, in comparison to medical check-ups such as a mammogram and routine physical examinations. The findings show:
For 37 percent of women, booking a beauty service takes up to a few hours. In contrast, 25 percent of women take the same time to book a mammogram. However, for 47 percent, booking a mammogram can take a couple of months or more.
Sixty-eight percent of women undergo beauty services lasting between 30 minutes to two hours. Yet, a mammogram only takes 30 minutes on average.
Single and married couples with no children undergo more routine checkups than married women with children.
Nearly 55 percent spend a couple of months or more planning vacations. Meanwhile, 66 percent book a car service at least once a year, while one in five schedules it every two to three months. In contrast, 34 percent have never booked a mammogram.
Most women said they are likely to remind a female friend or a family member to get a health check-up, such as a mammogram – but a third of them have never had one.
In a similar study conducted last year, the SSMC found that lack of awareness, cultural beliefs, stigma, fear, anxiety, and privacy concerns often impede women from seeking a timely diagnosis.
“Given the insights we have gained over the years, the SSMC now has a dedicated all-female team to enhance patient comfort for women undergoing tests and breast cancer screenings. As part of our commitment to offering world-class care, our hospital also houses the latest diagnostic technologies and treatment techniques, such as AI-powered pathology for more accurate diagnosis and state-of-the-art radio oncology equipment for improved outcomes,” Dr. Alsalami added.
Throughout October, the SSMC’s breast cancer awareness campaign aspires to raise awareness of early detection to increase regular screening in women over the age of 40 for earlier diagnosis and treatment. On 8th October, the SSMC partnered up with Pink Caravan and Abu Dhabi Ladies Club, and the Pink Caravan, a UAE-based breast cancer initiative by Friends of Cancer Patients to offer free check-ups at the Abu Dhabi Ladies Club and provided members of the public with the opportunity to engage with several breast cancer and radiation oncology experts from the SSMC to broaden their knowledge and awareness on breast cancer and prevention.
Additionally, as part of the campaign, the SSMC will bring back its Breast Cancer Support Group, providing sessions to facilitate a safe space for patients and their families to express their feelings and share their unique experiences during their treatment journey. On 28th October, the SSMC will organise a support group session with patients and doctors from 15:30 to 20:00, at Abu Dhabi Ladies Club, featuring a wide range of activities, including meditation, entertainment, a scent stone workshop, and group discussions.
Dr. Abdulqader Almessabi, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the SSMC, said, “Our unique model of care at the SSMC is based on our unshakable shields of practice, research, and education that focus on placing patients’ needs first. At the SSMC, we contribute to enhanced levels of community well-being through our health literacy efforts around prevalent diseases, such as breast cancer, and by delivering integrated, compassionate care through the latest innovations and a team of multidisciplinary medical experts that place patients at the very heart of their practice and purpose.”