Experts, patients and survivors of cancer in Egypt gathered last week to attend the launch of the first support program for cancer patients, a collaboration between the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) and the private sector's Novartis alongside the Baheya hospital.
Baheya opened its doors in February 2015 and was hailed as the first charitable organization to provide free cancer diagnosis and treatment to women in Egypt.
According to Dr Ahmad Hassan Abdel Aziz, head of the hospital's oncology department, the the hospital has served 18,650 women, offered 14,100 mammograms and performed 12,275 surgical procedures over the last year and a half.
During the same time, 1,200 patients have undergone chemotherapy at the hospital, and 450 have received radiation therapy.
According to hospital director Dr Hesham Aboul Naga, the aim of the support sessions provided by the unit is to raise patients' spirits and encourage the beginning or the continuation of the treatment amid greater awareness and understanding.
"In addition to support sessions, which began on April 15th, other activities include make-up tutorials, yoga and a session that discusses handling the aesthetic side effects of chemo," said Aboul Naga.
The event also honored some of the program's first participants. Safaa, a former cancer patient who received treatment and support at Baheya, talked with high spirits about her experience.
"The [hospital] and staff are highly qualified and equipped. Equally important, the hospital believes that medicine alone is not enough. Its comprehensive free of charge rehabilitation and psychological care program helps patients tremendously," she said.
“Cancer patients suffer stress similar to major traumas with long-term consequences. Many women are unable to afford psychological support. Recent studies have shown that severe depression and anxiety affect 50% of patients and that moral support can minimize mortality by 50%, which can reach 39% in depressive patients," Abdel Aziz said.
"Early detection at the first stages of cancer achieves cure rates of over 98%, and 93% during the second stage, while timely psychological support boosts cure rates," Abdel Aziz continued.
The national cancer registry in Egypt showed at the end of 2014 that cancer incidents in Egypt reached 113 new cases for every 100,000 citizens each year.
The most common cancer on the registry for men was liver cancer -- due to the spread of hepatitis C -- with 39 cases for every 10, 000 person annually, followed by cancer of the bladder, lung, lymph nodes and prostate respectively.
As for women, breast cancer came on top of the list with 35 cases per 10,000, followed by cancer of the liver, ovaries, and lymph nodes.