THOUSANDS of women are benefiting from a free cancer screening programme launched by a non-governmental organisation more than a decade ago.
Between 2005 and 2012, over 25,000 women underwent free mammography examinations as part of a first-of-its-kind initiative spearheaded by the Bahrain Cancer Society (BCS).
Despite lack of statistics since the campaign was handed over to the Health Ministry in December 2012, BCS officials believe scores of women are still benefiting from the drive.
“In August 2005, we launched the breast cancer awareness programme under which we offered free mammography twice a year for women aged above 40,” BCS president Dr Abdul Rahman Fakhro told the GDN.
“We sent out 52,000 invitations but received positive responses from only 1,000 women.
“However, we continued promoting the programme and spreading word through seminars, workshops and educational sessions in schools and colleges.
“By November 2012, 26,000 women had used our facility before we handed over the campaign to the Health Ministry as we wanted to focus on other cancers.
“We do not have the latest figures but we are sure that our campaign helped raise awareness, encouraging women to undergo mammography tests and remove the fear from their minds.”
Dr Fakhro was speaking to the GDN on the sidelines of the Gulf Campaign for Cancer Awareness campaign week at the Arabian Gulf University.
It is time to change people’s thinking, he said.
“People still believe that cancer is incurable and unresponsive to treatment. There is also the question of social stigma where patients or families try to hide the fact that they are battling cancer for fear of being isolated.”
BCS vice-president Dr Amer Al Darazi said cancer cases were on the rise.
“The incidence is on the rise, in terms of numbers, especially breast cancer in women and colon and prostrate cancers among men.
“However, while in the past we were detecting cancers in almost the final stages, now we are coming across cases either in stage one or two.
“We have women calling up and enquiring about mammography even without any symptoms because they heard about early detection and the high risk of having cancer above the age of 40.
“I think we have achieved the purpose of the campaign we launched in 2005 and we hope to see better results.”