When it comes to breast cancer, early detection can save lives

Doctors in Saudi Arabia are urging women to beat cancer by getting regularly screened. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 October 2017
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When it comes to breast cancer, early detection can save lives

JEDDAH: The world is going pink this October as campaigners work to raise awareness about breast cancer and the importance of early detection. In Saudi Arabia, medical professionals are working hard to shed light on the disease and the warning signs that women — and men — should look out for.
Breast cancer occurs as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy.
Normal cells will stay where they belong and only divide if and when they need to, however, if the genes are faulty, cells can reproduce to form a tumor. In breast cancer cases, a malignant tumor develops in the breast tissue and can spread.
According to Dr. Marwan Al-Hajjeili, head of the oncology division in King Abdulaziz University’s department of medicine, breast cancer is still not yet fully understood.
“The disease is a misunderstood one, it’s intense and one that is difficult to combat in the late stages. When caught early, it can be controlled. As a consultant, I explain to my patients the importance of understanding what their situation is according to the images obtained from different tests. The stages that come after verifying or refuting depend on these images and it’s best to find hospitals that have advanced machinery for the highest quality images. They’re the most important part of the whole ordeal for confirmation.”
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Saudi Arabia, according to a 2017 report by the World Health Organization, comprising 18.7 percent of all new registered cases as of 2014.
In cases of breast cancer, medical experts agree that early detection can save lives.
“Women need to be vigilant and aware of their own bodies. If a woman feels that her skin on the breast feels different, some redness, (a change of) shape or the appearance of a lump, she needs to get it checked out to rule out any inconsistencies,” Al-Hajjeili said.
Women above the age of 40 should be screened once a year, but younger women should also keep a routine regimen of health checks.
“The most common cause of breast cancer is hereditary… (but) this doesn’t rule out other factors such as race, ethnicity, menopause and other external factors. However, this is an unpredictable disease and numerous studies are still being conducted to understand it more. The only way to confirm it is through a biopsy — this stage of the test comes after confirming the imaging tests,” Al-Hajjeili said.
For her part, Dr. Suad Mohamad bin Amer, co-founder of Zahra Breast Cancer Association, told Arab News that the disease it easier to deal with if it is caught early.
“When breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it’s easier to treat and cure. For this reason, we are encouraging women to be informed about early detection and screening,” she said.
“Nothing can prevent the disease from appearing. Although (the risk of developing) some cancers can be (reduced) through a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercising and not smoking, it is still not a sure thing.”
Doctors agree that an important part of the difficult process is making sure the patient understands exactly what the diagnosis means.
“When breast cancer is confirmed, a thorough sit down must be scheduled with my patient. I go through every single point in terms best understood by the patient, starting with (the fact) that this can be a controlled disease, reassuring them and putting the doubts away. When patients adhere to the guidelines set and follow up regularly, the survival rates can be very high,” the doctor said.
According to a World Health Organization report this year, there were 2,791 confirmed cases of breast cancer in the Kingdom in 2014. The Saudi Ministry of Health reported that the average age at which the cancer was detected in women was 52. As to the causes of breast cancer, age and family history are the top factors while inherited genes, post-menopausal hormone therapy and nutritional factors are also considered to be important factors.
A small percentage of men have also been known to suffer from breast cancer and, despite the lack of awareness, it is also important that men keep abreast of their health and visit the doctor for regular checkups.
Awareness in the Kingdom has increased due to many initiatives and campaigns for early detection, but it is still a taboo subject. The desire to sweep the issue under the carpet has led many to suffer in silence, but times are changing and campaigners are working hard to spread the word that regular screenings are essential.


Comptoir Libanais brings the Levant to London

Comptoir Libanais has outlets across the UK. (All images supplied)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Comptoir Libanais brings the Levant to London

  • Comptoir Libanais has 22 branches around the UK
  • The restaurant is known for its colorful interior and delicious food

LONDON: For years, London has been known for embracing culinary tastes from all over the world, served up by establishments ranging from snazzy and glitzy new restaurants to venues that are more than 100 years old and have been handed down from one generation to the next.
Comptoir Libanais (Lebanese Canteen), which was founded in 2008, stands out among the more recent arrivals for bringing a true, authentic taste of the Levant to London and beyond, with almost two dozen restaurants in the English capital and other cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool.

For years when he was a child growing up in Algeria, Tony Kitous, the restaurant’s founder and owner, watched his mother create tasty meals for his family. This was something he carried with him when he moved to England at the age of 18.
“I came to London with a dream but it wasn’t until I scrubbed dishes and slept in friends’ houses that I realized what I wanted my dream to be: To bring a taste of home to London, a city I grew to enjoy and love,” he said.
Kitous’s passion for Middle Eastern food and what it symbolizes, the culture and hospitality, is clear in his colorfully decorated restaurants, which resemble traditional Beirut canteens or souks. The menu offers a mix of hearty and light dishes, including mezzes, wraps, grills, salads and traditional side dishes.
“I want all visitors to feel right at home, even if they’re on the go,” said Kitous. “The patrons that try the restaurant for the first time can see how we choose the freshest ingredients from our partners and can truly feel as if they’re in the Levant region.
“Lebanese food is universal. It has a bit of everything in it without having the ingredients over powering one another — all dishes complement one another.”
Every dish, every ingredient and even the plates on which they are served are personally selected by Kitous. “Nothing but fresh is allowed here,” he said.
It all sounds great but does the food live up to the expectations? I dined at the Oxford Street branch and found that the fatoush, hummus and cheese sambousak were great starters. The fresh halloumi manousha had just the right amount of crispiness around the edge, with a soft middle complementing the cheese.
The lamb and prune tagine, served with a side of couscous, swept us to the streets of Morocco. The lamb was soft and melted in the mouth, complemented by the sweetness of the prunes. As a vegetarian option, the aubergine tagine was balanced and tasty.
For Arab diners the menu is filled with the tastes of home and it is hard to imagine how anyone could limit themselves to ordering just one dish. Every option was perfectly seasoned and the table was a beautiful, tasty mess — truly a canteen experience.
The interior design of all Comptoir Libanais venues is similar, offering a burst of color and eccentricity through mismatched tiles, colorful furniture and walls adorned with old Arabic movie posters, including one of legendary actress Sirine Jamal Al-Dine with her signature smile. Thanks to an open kitchen in the back, the restaurant is always bustling with activity and the sounds of patrons enjoying their meals. You could really sense the hints of Kitous’s childhood memories imprinted in the decor. Whether you are in the mood for a hearty breakfast, a quick lunch or a good, delicious dinner to end your day, Comptoir Libanais will not disappoint.