Lebanese Campaign Starts in Sidon For Breast Cancer Reconstruction

Published October 9th, 2018 - 11:32 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)

An annual campaign in Sidon is raising awareness this month on breast cancer, offering women free screenings and shedding light on the importance of psychological treatment in addition to medical treatment. This year, the campaign is taking an extra step, organizing a walkathon to call on medical insurance companies to cover the costs of patients’ breast reconstructive surgery.

The “You are the Whole Story” campaign is the sixth launched by the Hammoud Hospital University Medical Center and will include several activities running throughout October to tackle different challenges faced by women in their battle against the cancer.

At an event held Monday at the Sidon Municipality, the program for the campaign was announced in the presence of MPs and other officials.

Mustafa Hebli, a social work volunteer, was distributing flyers highlighting the importance of early detection through routine screenings. “We all have to stand by women. ... Just like my wife encourages me to get tested for prostate cancer, we as men need to take our wives, our mothers, our sisters and even the maid to mammography centers,” Hebli said.

Sana Salman sat inside the municipality’s hall after undergoing a chemotherapy session. Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in the beginning of 2018, Salman showed no sign of fear. “I call on women to not be afraid of getting tested,” she said.

Salman said she will have a screening in the coming days, which will decide whether she will undergo a lumpectomy a partial removal of the breast or a mastectomy.

The campaign’s first activity involved a meeting session with doctors at the hospital Fadi Farhat, Khaled Ibrahim and Mahmoud Wahbi to discuss detection, advancements in treatment, as well as the role of undergoing psychological treatment, Jihan al-Zaatari, social affairs officer at Hammoud Hospital told The Daily Star.

The session also highlighted a patients’ right to receive breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy or lumpectomy, featuring plastic surgeon Ahmad al-Zaatari, who explained the procedure.

Every year, the campaign chooses a different NGO, offering a hundred free mammogram screenings to women. A team of specialized doctors then follows up with the file, in case a woman is diagnosed.

This year, women can undergo the screenings and doctors’ examinations at the headquarters of the Sidon-based NGO Ahlouna, where they will also receive instructions for breast self-examination, Jihan al-Zaatari said. “This campaign is important because its directed at limited-income families,” he added.

For its third activity, the campaign is collecting hair donations at the Spot Saida Mall, and will work with hairstylists to produce over 40 wigs for patients, made from donations of more than an estimated 100 women.

The final activity, launched for this year’s edition, is the walkathon calling on medical insurance companies to cover costs of breast reconstruction surgery for patients, under the slogan, “we stand next to you so you can claim your right.”

“Just like heart bypass surgery and kidney surgery are important to save an individual’s life, reconstructive surgery is a necessity for women [undergoing treatment for breast cancer] to improve their mental health,” Jihan al-Zaatari said.

Hala al-Masri, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, recalled her story. “Cancer visited me ... and took a piece of my body, and my hair. A lot of things changed with my body, but I had the support of my direct family, and my larger family: the Hammoud Hospital.”

When Masri overcame the tumor, she wanted reconstructive surgery, but found that the operation is not covered by the National Social Security Fund, or by private insurance companies, as it is considered plastic surgery.

Masri now volunteers to help other women battle the disease.

Diana Hammoud, the CEO of Hammoud Hospital, addressed attendees at the municipality with a heartfelt request.

“We have all heard slogans saying women are half of our society, or that behind every great man is a woman, but this is not enough. ... We all agree that women are the foundation of society not just half of it. Because of this, it’s important to care for women’s mental and physical health.”

Hammoud called on “every household in Sidon” to “support every mother, sister, wife, friend, girlfriend, and join the campaign. ... to call for the right of [breast cancer patients] to complete their treatment by reconstructing their breasts.”

Among many existing diseases, some types of cancer are “easy to treat” if detected early on, Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi said. “With many awareness campaigns and free tests, there is no excuse to not undergo routine screenings,” Saudi added.

Fadi Farhat, head of the Cancer and Blood Diseases Department at Hammoud Hospital, told The Daily Star that Lebanon rates similar to international percentages of breast cancer the most diagnosed type of cancer in women worldwide.

“Yes, we have high rates of breast cancer compared to other types of cancer, but do we have much higher rates than the rest of countries? No, we do not,” Farhat said.

According to Farhat, “one in every six to seven women are diagnosed with breast cancer.”

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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