'My Story Is Not Over': Raising awareness on metastatic breast cancer in Egypt

Ingy Deif, Wednesday 30 Oct 2019

Experts and patients in Egypt gather to shed light on metastatic breast cancer and the challenges it presents

MBC initiative 2019 ( photo: Ingy Deif for Ahram online)
Panel addresses MBC awareness , October 2019 ( photo: Ingy Deif for Ahram online)

Come October, "Breast cancer awareness” is the watchword all over the world. Egypt highlighted the cause through a series of events, concluding 30 October with the launch of the "My Story Is Not Over, Count Me" campaign.

The event was launched by the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt (BCFE), with some of the bravest women who survived cancer or are still under treatment.

The event is a continuation of the groundbreaking "Unmute the Silence" campaign, launched for the first time in Egypt in 2016, aiming to shed the light on metastatic breast cancer (MBC).

MBC is defined by the World Health Organisation as the advanced stage of cancer, when it spreads from the breast tissues to various parts of the body, like the brain, muscles and lungs.

Pink was everywhere, with most of those in attendance adopting it in their attire, speaking out for the beauty and the bravery of women who face breast cancer and setting a positive vibe.

The venue was adorned with artistic works by cancer patients and survivors, and university students, who used their works to give glimpses of their amazing journeys.

MBC initiative 2019 ( photo: Ingy Deif for Ahram online)
drawings depicting feeling of survivors

Some 120 patients and survivors attended the event to recount their experiences, encourage others, and shed light on the obstacles faced in their treatment.

Manal, a cancer fighter, as she calls herself, was the first to speak.

The mum of two spoke about the experience of undergoing treatment years ago, only to discover lately that cancer struck back, and that she is challenged now with MBC. She expressed hope of drawing public attention to the psychological and physical suffering experienced by breast cancer patients

Mohamed Shaalan, professor of surgical oncology and head of the Breast Surgery Department at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and BCFE founder, announced launching the first Arabic language platform for metastatic breast cancer with the help of private sector pharmaceutical Novartis, adding that it addresses the lack of accessible information on the illness, latest treatments, advances in testing and diagnosis, as well as the psychological issues faced by patients and caregivers.

"In past years, the sole focus of medical institutions was awareness on early detection, which was — and still is — of utmost importance. It took everybody time to start tackling the ordeal faced by most breast cancer patients. This is unfortunate, and we need to help MBC fighters feel that they are not alienated," he said.

A panel of esteemed Egyptian professors of oncology, psychology, alternative medicine, as well as experts in fields of Yoga and pain management, spoke to the issue of suffering among patients, as well as spreading awareness, diagnosis, methods of treatment, the psychological factor, and the role of media in advocating for the cause, as well as the roles of nursing institutions and families in facilitating the path to treatment.

There are 166 cancer cases in Egypt for every 100,000 people, according to the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP), which leaves the documented rate of cancer diagnosis one of the lowest internationally. Many fear that thousands go undiagnosed.

Liver cancer is the most common form of the disease, at 23.8 percent of all cases, followed by breast cancer at 15.4 percent, and bladder cancer at 6.9 percent. 

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