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Novartis brings leading breast cancer doctors together in Saudi Arabia

Side of Novartis' Breast Cancer Summit 2017 in at the Sofitel Jeddah. (Photo courtesy: supplied)
JEDDAH: Marking the month of October as breast cancer awareness month, Novartis brought together Saudi Arabia’s leading doctors treating breast cancer at the Sofitel Jeddah, bringing to the fore the latest advancements in breast cancer treatments and patient quality of life protocols.
Novartis provides innovative health care solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies.
In the Kingdom, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer of which women are diagnosed. In 2013, 29.1% of all cancer incidences were breast cancer, where the highest incidence rates were reported in the Eastern Province and the median age being 50.
The incidence rates by region were recorded as: Eastern Province 41.0/100,000; Riyadh at 29.3/100,000; Makkah at 25.3/100,000; Northern region at 25.0/100,000; and Tabuk at 24.9/100,000.
A number of factors are attributed to the rising numbers which is not unique to the Kingdom, however, the Ministry of Health estimates that the rate will quadruple in the Middle East over the next 20 years.
Awareness efforts to drive early detection are significantly helping patients come to a better prognosis and their overall quality of life. However, awareness levels are still reported to be low Kingdom wide. Dr. Adel El-Sayes, medical director of the Saudi Cancer Foundation said: “Management and treatment of cancer has significantly evolved over the years. We understand the disease better, that resulted in what we have today — better treatment options and protocols to manage the diagnosis versus what we had even five years ago. Today what we believe we now need are better strategies to raise levels of understanding for patients and their families. It’s a critical component that we work together to ease the burden of a diagnosis and encourage patients to approach their conditions more holistically.”
Treatment and management of a cancer diagnosis have evolved dramatically in the last decade. Chemotherapy is no longer the only answer and there are oral therapies that are far more forgiving on the body and specifically target breast cancer.
The new treatment protocol was approved in the Kingdom and is specifically for metastasized breast cancer and has proven to have a higher success rate with much lower side effects. This gives way for more patients and their caregivers to get better treatment and a greater quality of living while being treated.
A new area of exploration for patient health management is holistic well-being with nutritional, emotional and physical wellness approached and incorporated with the treatment protocol developed for each patient. Patient health care services have expanded from medication-driven to overall well-being driven treatment protocols of looking at patients and their all-around needs.
Speaking on the unmet needs of breast cancer patients, Prof. Ahmed Ali Saadeddin, consultant in clinical oncology and clinical tutor at the Department of Adult Oncology at King Abdul Aziz Medical City/National Guard Health Affair Riyadh discussed the emotional and psychological toll a diagnosis like breast cancer has on patients and their immediate loved ones.
“A breast cancer diagnosis can bring about a continuous amount of stigma for patients in the Kingdom and significant stress from the judgment they endure from family and society, over and above the stress of a new diagnosis. The emotional needs of a breast cancer patient occur over a spectrum of social, psychological and physiological burdens for both the patient and their family. Assessment of this need is a critical step in providing high-quality care for patients that cannot be overlooked in favor of only a medication.”
He added: “It is very important to stress the fact that there has been a significant improvement in the outcome of treatment for breast cancer in view of a better understanding of the disease, more personalized treatment approaches with the use of targeted and biological therapies, as well as excellent progress in research to understand the mechanism of resistance of such therapies.”
More than 65% of Saudi women are diagnosed with regional and distant breast cancer which represents advanced stages in breast cancer. Advancements and medical breakthroughs in breast cancer today presents hope of a normal life after cancer. The therapies now approved for treatment of breast cancer are more targeted to directly affect the breast cancer with no need for hospitalization resulting from significantly less impact on the body overall in comparison to previous treatments.
“A late diagnosis today does not mean the end of patients’ lives, rather the outlook is far more positive. More research is being done to find answers to improve the quality of life for those patients. Today we are hopeful for a good outcome for our patients with more modalities and strategies for managing the disease and the treatment of symptoms,” said Dr. Meteb Al-Foheidi, medical oncology consultant, assistant professor and medical oncology block coordinator at King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health and Science in Jeddah.

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