Oncologist hails Saudi blood cancer drive during awareness month

Dr. Ayman Alhejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh. (Supplied)
Dr. Ayman Alhejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 September 2022

Oncologist hails Saudi blood cancer drive during awareness month

Dr. Ayman Alhejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences
  • Patients, carers can receive support to ease emotional and financial burdens, says Dr. Ayman Al-Hejazi

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is using Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September to raise awareness about leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease, support patients affected by blood cancer and raise funds for research, a Saudi oncologist has said.

According to a GLOBOCAN 2020 report issued by the World Health Organization, Saudi Arabia had 4,326 new cases of blood cancer, including 1,698 patients who were detected with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 1,676 with Leukaemia, 687 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 265 with multiple myeloma.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Ayman Al-Hejazi, assistant professor of hematology oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences in Riyadh, said: “Raising blood cancer awareness is becoming increasingly important in Saudi Arabia. There are three main types of blood and bone marrow cancers: Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

“In addition to the disease’s malignant nature, blood cancer treatments and management affect patients and caregivers financially and emotionally. People living with any form of blood cancer are impacted in their ability to perform daily activities. A strong emotional impact on people living with the disease includes worry about their future, their treatment and the possibility of relapsing.”

He believes that there is relatively low awareness about blood cancer around the world.

Al-Hejazi, who also spearheads the Saudi Adult Hematology Fellowship Training Program at King Abdulaziz Medical City and serves as the program director, told Arab News: “Awareness is important, and I believe that the government of Saudi Arabia is making tremendous contributions toward raising it through various programs and initiatives.

“However, I equally believe in the importance of collaborative work between governments, healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies that offer innovative treatments in creating the most efficient treatment strategies, disease management approaches, and most importantly, post-treatment care plans designed to extend patients’ remission.”

He said that at least nine major national cancer centers provide treatment to patients in Saudi Arabia.

All types of blood cancer affect patients on various levels, and raising awareness to ensure early cancer detection and treatment can save many lives, and improve the quality of life for those undergoing treatments, in remission or their latest stages of recovery as well as those undergoing repeated therapies.

Dr. Ayman Al-Hejazi, Assistant professor of hematology oncology, King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences

While the Kingdom is considered a high-income country, cancer treatment drug shortages remain a significant challenge around Saudi Arabia as well as in other developed countries.

“One of the solutions to this challenge would be focusing on treatments and disease management strategies that extend remission periods and optimize drug admission. Novel agents in addition to the introduction of more convenient initiatives like the on-body drug delivery systems for cancer therapeutics can reduce overall disease costs,” said the oncologist.

Discussing the different types of blood cancer affecting people in the Kingdom, Al-Hejazi said: “All types of blood cancer affect patients on various levels, and raising awareness to ensure early cancer detection and treatment can save many lives, and improve the quality of life for those undergoing treatments, in remission or their latest stages of recovery as well as those undergoing repeated therapies.

“All types of blood cancer are dangerous and patients in the Kingdom are frequently diagnosed with all of the types. Multiple myeloma is considered to be the second most common hematologic malignancy,” he added.

Multiple myeloma — most frequently diagnosed in people aged between 65-74 — is a cancer of plasma cells, which are types of white blood cells found in bone marrow. However, in the Kingdom, many cases are detected at a younger age, with less than 7 percent of population being older than 65.

Commenting on common symptoms and diagnostic strategies in different stages of blood cancer, the oncologist said that some of the common symptoms of blood cancer include weight loss, bruising or bleeding, lumps or swellings, shortness of breath, drenching night sweats, persistent, recurrent or severe infections and high fevers. Multiple myeloma symptoms can also include bone pain that is persistent or recurrent, fractures, persistent tiredness due to anemia or kidney failure as well as nervous system disorders.

Initial blood cancer diagnoses may include a complete blood count test that measures the amount of each type of blood cell in a sample, as well as a bone marrow biopsy to confirm multiple myeloma, Al-Hejazi said.

First treatments are likely to include a formula of different drugs. Chemotherapy is often thought of as the only treatment option, but a range of cancer drugs are also available in the Kingdom.

A majority of people newly diagnosed with blood cancer receive emotional support and care from family, but many patients still feel isolated even when surrounded by relatives and turn to the internet for help, said Al-Hejazi.

Family members are more likely to give multiple types of care, such as helping the patient in their general housework. Carers can often be highly impacted by their role, affecting them psychologically, socially and financially. Meanwhile, cancer patients can develop mental health conditions and most commonly experience depression and fear.

The most important objective, however, should be to extent progression-free periods, with the ultimate treatment goal for multiple myeloma being to minimize patients’ and caregivers’ economic burdens, said Al-Hejazi.

The term blood cancer is a general description of various hematopoietic cancers. Our blood flows through blood vessels to supply all tissues in the body with nutrients.

In about five liters of blood circulating in our body there are billions of blood cells that carry out various vital functions. All blood cells originate from hematopoietic stem cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells are known as mother cells and are able to renew and replace other cells that die.

Blood cancer is an abnormal proliferation of cells in bone marrow, especially white blood cells. Cancer cells flood the blood and drive out healthy cells.

As a result, the blood can no longer perform its basic tasks, such as transporting oxygen and protecting the body from infection.

 


KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh

KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh
Updated 04 October 2022

KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh

KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) concluded on Saturday the voluntary medical program to combat blindness and its diseases in Nawabganj Town, Bangladesh. 
The project came within ‘Noor Saudi Arabia’ voluntary program.
Since its beginning, the KSRelief’s voluntary medical team has medically examined 4,610 cases, distributed 1,616 glasses, and performed 519 successful cataract surgeries.
This campaign is part of the voluntary projects, implemented by the KSRelief in several countries, with the aim of providing treatment to people with limited income.


KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon

KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon
Updated 04 October 2022

KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon

KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) continued to provide assistance to people in disaster-hit areas and refugee camps.
Various relief aid was distributed to those affected by the floods in Pakistan with as many as 1,360 food baskets distributed, which benefited 9,520 people.
These efforts come within the Saudi relief airlift operations that have been dispatched, under the directives of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
Similarly, KSRelief distributed 455 food baskets in Khartoum, Sudan – or translated to 2,503 individual recipients – as part of programmed efforts to help needy families in the country this year.
KSRelief also distributed on Saturday 675 food baskets in the Arsal region of Lebanon, which benefited 3,375 people under the food security effort for Palestinian and Syrian refugees as well the host community there.


SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen
Updated 04 October 2022

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen
  • The purpose of the forum is to contribute to raising and developing awareness toward cultural heritage, as well as to protect it from extinction

Al-MAHRA, Yemen: On Mahri Language Day, the Mahri Forum was held at Qishn School, Al-Mahra governorate, with the participation of the Saudi Program for the Development and Reconstruction of Yemen.

The purpose of the forum is to contribute to raising and developing awareness toward cultural heritage, as well as to protect it from extinction.

The SDRPY participation comes with reference to strengthening ties between both countries, as well as supporting culture in Yemen.

“We wish Yemen all the best, and may it recover within a secure, prosperous, and stable environment. May Yemen be able to contribute to the projects and initiatives hosted by the SDRPY, which amounted to 224 programs and initiatives in total, including more than 50 projects in Al-Mahra, with the purpose of improving its daily life and raising the efficiency of infrastructure in various sectors,” said Abdullah Basilman, director of the SDRPY’s program office in Al-Mahra.

Mahri is a Semitic language like Soqotri and Shehri, among others. SDRPY aims to contribute to the revival of the Mahri language and avoid its extinction through its participation in the forum.


Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims
Updated 03 October 2022

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, represented by the social, voluntary and humanitarian services, has launched the “Tawqeer” (elderly care) initiative, through which several programs and services are provided for elderly people to enable them to perform rituals in ease and comfort, enriching their experience.

Two Holy Mosques chief Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais affirmed the presidency’s keenness to provide the best social, voluntary and humanitarian services to pilgrims while applying preventive measures, following health instructions and providing visitors with a safe and healthy environment in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.


Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development
Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development
  • Focus on play and not competition, says agency designing programs
  • Multiple sports for ages 4-10 including dance, yoga, gymnastics

RIYADH: A local organization, Sports Hub KSA, is designing tailor-made sports programs for children that emphasize play and skills development rather than competition, and which encourages the involvement of parents.

Simon Muller, CEO and co-founder of Sports Hub KSA, said of the approach to programs: “We want to give children a chance to do sports differently than in a school environment. There’s no pressure, it’s not in 45 minutes the teacher doesn’t have to teach something specific … the children can play in the time frame that they are with us.”

Sports Hub KSA is a Saudi Arabia-based agency that specializes in creating and delivering sports programs for stakeholders such as Inspire Sports, schools, families, and individual children aged between four and 10.

This year, for example, Inspire Sports organized a summer camp program, one of the first in the Kingdom after COVID-19, allowing children to interact with others their age.

Unlike other sports programs, Inspire does not urge competition or being the best, it rather sets a foundation for children to develop their skills while enjoying multiple activities and sports in one session.

Sports Hub KSA is a Saudi Arabia-based agency that specializes in creating and delivering sports programs for stakeholders such as Inspire Sports, schools, families, and individual children aged between four and 10. (Supplied)

“It’s a mix of sports, multi-sport is the core of our concept, it isn’t one single sport, children always need to explore different things and one sport can get boring after four or five sessions,” Muller said.

Muller believes that it is important to play with children especially “those aged between four and 10, as it is way more important than specializing in one sport.”

There can be five to eight sports or games in a session such as athletics, dodgeball, basketball, football, gymnastics, dance and yoga. “We are more focused on the game rather than the sport. “It’s very interesting that the children are interested in many different things.”

Muller said that yoga, which was done at least once a week, was quite popular in the program.

The three-hour summer program only offered apples, bananas, and water. “We just want to set examples and offer something healthy during our sessions to influence other parents and see what we are offering. We are also using social media channels to promote healthy eating,” he said.

Muller said that inclusivity is a major aspect of their programs, so the role of parents is important and coaches encourage them to be involved and present during sessions.

“Inclusion is a very important aspect of what we are doing, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We try to have games for children of different levels and age and development stages to have fun together,” Muller said.

“We are totally aware that what we are doing is something new and we as a company are new and we also know that trust is the most important thing for parents when they decide to send their children to programs, especially when the children are so young,” he said.

“Inclusion is a very important aspect of what we are doing, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We try to have games for children of different levels and age and development stages to have fun together,” CEO and co-founder of Sports Hub KSA said. (Supplied)

“So, we have open days where families can come with their children and just try it and see what we are doing but we also invite the parents all the time. The doors are completely open so parents can come in and see what we are doing at any time of the program,” he said.

“Everything is important at a young age, between three and six it’s very clear in the scientific world that this is the most important age in developing certain behaviors and having a positive association with certain things,” Muller said.

“The ultimate goal is that the children are with us, especially in the age group of four to nine, are with us for two to three years, and not just summer. When they spend couple of hours with us every week, their fundamentals are way more developed than other children that don’t have that opportunity,” he said.

Muller believes it is important for children in their early years to try different things. After the initial first few years enrolled in the sports program, children will then be able to choose the sports that they love.