Breast cancer prevention, early diagnosis and the latest management techniques were the focus of the fourth annual Breast Cancer Conference 2015 recently organized by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that affects women around the world and is the second leading cause of deaths due to cancer.
The two-day conference embraced the theme: “Collaborating to Improve Breast Cancer Care” and also featured state-of-the-art lectures and dedicated workshops by regional and international experts. A variety of topics were covered during the conference including updates on surgical management of breast cancer, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
More than 300 healthcare professionals convened at the event that supported the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month; a world-wide campaign that encourages organizations to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education and research.
Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist from the National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) at HMC and Director of the HMC Breast Cancer Screening Program, Dr. Salha Bujassoum Al Bader said: “This annual conference reaffirms HMC’s commitment to provide the best possible care to our patients. It provides a unique platform to healthcare professionals to engage in a thought-provoking experience aimed at facilitating the advancement of breast cancer care, fostering collaborative research, and integrating novel ideas in clinical practice.”
Dr. Al Bader spoke at length about breast cancer care in Qatar and highlighted an HMC study that identified a significant increase in the public’s willingness to participate in breast cancer screening and be breast aware in the country. The study also found that breast cancer incidence in Qatar is higher in women aged 43 to 52 years.
“In addition to being breast aware and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it is recommended that women without any signs and symptoms begin regular mammogram screening (a low-dose x-ray examination of the breast) at age 45 and above. A mammogram is performed to detect breast cancer early and help decrease breast cancer deaths. To book an appointment for a mammogram screening, women can call the Breast Cancer Screening Unit at NCCCR on 4439 8994 from 8am to 2pm (Sunday to Thursday),” Dr. Al Bader said.
One of the distinguished speakers at the conference, Dr. Ibrahim Nuhad, Medical Oncologist from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, United States, praised HMC’s effort to bring together an international community of speakers at the conference.
“Conferences like this are very important to the ongoing development of breast cancer care services in Qatar and in the region. In addition, I believe the ongoing accumulation of data about the patients in the country will assist the investigators at NCCCR to develop strategies to better minimize the impact of breast cancer in Qatar,” Dr. Nuhad said. He added that: “The clinical outcomes that the breast cancer care team at HMC is getting, matches with the best centers in the world and this is something to be proud of.”
Dr. Nuhad presented an insightful lecture on recent advances in the management of metastatic breast cancer [when cancer spreads to other parts of the body]. He said that the treatment of metastatic breast cancer is challenging, however recent advances concerning some type of tumors show improvement in survival rates of those affected with it.
Another international speaker, Professor Giuseppe Curigliano, Co-Chair of the Division of Early Drug Development at European Institute of Oncology, in Milan, Italy, spoke about latest development in treating early breast cancer, hormone therapy, targeted treatment and chemotherapy.
The event also included a dedicated mini symposium on radiotherapy, highlighting modern techniques in the treatment of breast cancer at NCCCR. The Breast Cancer Screening team at HMC also conducted several workshops entitled: “Be Breast Aware” – explaining to participants about how to be alert and notice any concerning symptoms.
A special workshop on survivorship was led by Dr. Don Dizon, Clinical Co-Director, Gynecologic Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Director of The Oncology Sexual Health Clinic. The workshop stressed the importance of treating the individual living with the disease rather than the disease itself. “We need to remember, there is a person who is dealing with a diagnosis, whose life is impacted by treatment, and is aiming to re-discover her life after breast cancer,” Dr. Dizon said.
He emphasized the vital role of clinicians in supporting patients with breast cancer. “We can help bring normalization to what is otherwise a terrifying and horrific process. This is survivorship – meeting the needs of our patients from diagnosis and on forward, beyond the cancer.”
For those recently diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Dizon said: “Breast cancer is nothing to be ashamed about, it is nothing that you did wrong, and you did not cause your own breast cancer.” He advised finding good support, whether through the clinical team, family or friends, or the increasing support coming through online platforms that bring together an international community of patients with breast cancer.