Finding a lump that shouldn’t be there or realising something is wrong with your body can be a frightening experience. However, it is important to remember that catching any sign of cancer in its early stages could make an enormous difference to the outcome. In fact, Dr Sadir Al Rawi, Director of Surgical Oncology Services at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai’s Cancer Center, and the expert team of Oncologists remind us that fear should not deter anyone from seeking help or not attending that routine screening.
“Fear is a major factor when it comes to screening,” he says. “People have to develop the mindset that not knowing is usually the worst thing that could happen. If you know, then you are empowered with the ability to do something about it and potentially save yourself from tragedy. Catching any cancer at an early stage gives people a better chance of fighting it.”
Fortunately, help is available for anyone noticing that something isn’t quite right. With the latest diagnostic facilities at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai’s Cancer Centre, any indication of a problem can be picked up and treated efficiently.
“The last decade has witnessed a rapid acceleration in the technological development of cancer diagnosis,” explains Dr Dorai Ramanathan, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Al Zahra Hospital’s Dubai Cancer Center. “The 3Tesler MRI, genetic and pro-genetic testing, and interventional access for radiologically difficult cases – where we can biopsy even very small lesions caused by potential cancers – are all examples of medical technological advancements that are revolutionising cancer diagnosis.”
At the same time, advancements in treatment and medical intervention are also improving the prognosis for many cancer patients.
“Advances in radiation treatments and high-tech surgical developments, such as robotic surgery, have elevated patients’ life expectancies and remission rates. Furthermore, aggressive screening programmes for cancer, have also made a big difference, allowing us to capture cancers at very early stages, which are pivotal in making the difference between life and death.”
Although the key to beating cancer is catching it while easier to treat, at Al Zahra Hospital’s centre, even some invasive cancers can be treated through revolutionary treatments.
“We are the only hospital in the UAE to perform a procedure called HIPEC therapy, which is the washing of the abdomen and all its organs with heated chemotherapy,” says Dr Al Rawi. “This is usually carried out for patients who have advanced forms of cancer, where the malignancy has already spread to various parts of the abdomen.”
“We are also in the process of introducing bone marrow transplants to the UAE, for patients struggling with aggressive blood cancers, thus offering the service locally so patients would not need to travel for treatment,” adds Dr Sabiha Rana, Consultant Haemato-Oncologist at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai.
The hospital recently became the first in the UAE to have a Joint Commission International (JCI)-accredited breast cancer centre. This is welcome news for the country, as, according to Dr Al Rawi, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer seen in the UAE, although many other cancers also continue to affect the population.
“As of 2019, cancer was the third-leading cause of death in the UAE. Breast, colorectal and thyroid cancer were the most prevalent of all new cancer cases in both genders. Further research shows that cancer cases are expected to double in the UAE by 2030.”
This may sound alarming, but there is good news.
“Breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates, keeping in mind that detection is done at an early stage,” explains Dr Al Rawi. “Eighty to ninety per cent of women diagnosed in early stages go into remission. Thyroid cancer is also one that has very high survival rates of 95 per cent. By survival rate, we mean the per cent of people likely to be alive five years after the diagnosis or treatments of the cancer.”
Whichever cancer you might be concerned about, Al Zahra Hospital can help you. The centre follows the best practices in the field and abides by the NCCN Guidelines for patient care. Furthermore, it operates by the principle of second and third opinions for disputed cases, both internally and externally, to ensure that whatever route of treatment it takes is the absolute best for the patients.
“We support our patients through every stage of the journey,” explains Dr Al Rawi. “We take a multispeciality approach and have specialists in various cancer subcategories such as kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, bone cancers, blood cancers, brain cancers and more. From advanced genetic testing and highly specialised diagnostics, to palliative and hospice care, nutrition therapy and home care, we offer support and hope to patients at any stage of the disease, while working to strict moral and medical standards that benefit our patients.”
With such help at hand, there really is no need to fear reaching out. Early intervention, with the right medical care, can make all the difference and could save your life.