BEIRUT: “Don’t hesitate, do the checkups and put your mind at ease,” says the slogan for this year’s annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, launched at the Health Ministry Wednesday.
“This is an important call for all mothers, daughters, sisters and wives to not take this issue lightly and to have yearly checkups. It’s is an easy thing to do and can save lives,” Health Minister Jamil Jabak said.
Jabak said that the ministry’s budget had not been reduced, despite threats of cuts. “We are trying to increase our budget,” he added, since “scientific advancements and new medications have high costs. ... This year, in coordination with the Cabinet, we were able to increase our budget by LL25 billion [$16.5 million].”
The health minister added: “We want to increase campaigns like this and make free or very low-cost mammograms available for women all over Lebanon.”
He said the Health Ministry would coordinate with primary care centers and public hospitals to do so. For the duration of the campaign, mammography exams will be free in public hospitals and at a cost of LL40,000 in private hospitals.
“Every woman is vulnerable to breast cancer,” said Walid Ammar, director-general of the Health Ministry. He added that early detection was vital to successful treatment, and said “women should have yearly mammograms, starting at the age of 40 or even 35.”
Ammar also advised women to perform monthly self checkups, from the age of 20.
President of Lebanese Society of Medical Oncology Dr. Nizar Bitar agreed, saying, “Even people who don’t feel any symptoms and are healthy should be regularly checked.”
This year’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign continues to focus on early detection, as cases detected at later stages have a lower chance of being treated successfully.
Ammar added that 70 percent of current breast cancer diagnoses were now made in the early stages. This has, in turn, led to an increase in the number of cases that have been successfully treated, thanks to the availability of advanced medical procedures in Lebanon.
According to the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation, there has been a decrease in advanced cancer cases and a rise in early stage cancer detection. Some 90 percent of early stage cancer patients are survivors.
This year marks the 17th National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. The initiative will run until the end of January 2020.
However, Ammar stressed that women should not wait for special campaigns to get checkups, highlighting that services are available in hospitals all year round.
Ammar said the number of women receiving mammograms was rising every year. “There was an 11 percent increase in the beginning of 2002, when this [annual] campaign was launched, and this year a 50 percent increase has been recorded,” he said.
“We hope to reach women all over Lebanon with this campaign, especially those in rural areas.”
Call 1214 for information about the National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign and mammograms.