On Tuesday, 1 October, the streets of Ramallah witnessed the launch of the October Campaign 2019 on the importance of the early detection of breast cancer. The campaign falls under the umbrella of the annual Arab campaign for combatting cancer under the slogan “Don’t wait for the symptoms until you do a checkup”. The event was organized at the Manarah roundabout in the city center, in the presence of Her Excellency Dr. Layla Ghannam, the Governor of Ramallah and Al Bireh, Dr. Shatha Odeh, the President of the Health Work Committees, Dr. Nufuth Maslamani, the Director of the Dunya Center for Women’s Cancer, Mrs. Hiba Tantash, the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Bank of Palestine, and several officials, activists, media persons and health organizations.

In her speech, the Palestinian health Minister Dr. May Keleh, expressed her enthusiasm about participating in the launch of the awareness campaign alongside the Health Work Committees, the Governorate of Ramallah and Al Bireh, Bank of Palestine and the rest of the partners. She stated that the Ministry of Health began providing tests for the early detection of breast cancer in 2008, and this year, the campaign is launched under the slogan “Don’t wait for the symptoms until you do a checkup” during the entire month of October, the Pink Month, which will also feature other events and campaigns across the Palestinian governorates.

Dr. Layla Ghannam, the Governor of Ramallah and Al Bireh, extended her greetings to all cancer survivors, spreading hope upon all Palestinians to eliminate the greater cancer – the Israeli occupation, and called upon solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who suffer from various forms of diseases, including cancer. Ghannam also expressed her wishes for success to all partners in their journey to achieve a cancer-free society.

Mrs. Hiba Tantash, the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Bank of Palestine, stressed the importance of the bank’s strong relationship with the Health Work Committee, the Dunya Center for Women’s Cancer and the rest of the partners, which paved the way for savings the lives of many Palestinian women. According to Tantash, the bank’s efforts stem from its corporate social responsibility and its aim to achieve greater development in the fields of health, economy and development. Tantash thanked all the stakeholders who contributed to the success of the campaign, especially the Health Work Committees, the Dunya Center for Women’s Cancer, the Ramallah Municipality and others who exerted their efforts to spread cancer awareness. 

Mr. Omar Mashaal, a representative from Akram Sbitany and Sons, stated “we are here today and during this month, which is considered among the most important months of the year, to spread awareness about the most dangerous and deadly diseases that strike our communities, but we can overcome this disease if we undergo the necessary periodical checkups.” “We are proud of the Dunya Center for Women’s Cancer and its dedicated team who work diligently to protect us from this disease,” he added.

Dr. Bahaa’ Rakut, a representative from Aroma Beauty Clinic, stated that “with each passing day, medical research is providing proof that the disease is not only targeting women over the age of forty, but also younger women. This is why we need to be alert and conduct an early detection.” Rakut also stressed the importance of detecting the factors that lead to the spread of this disease, especially hereditary factors and people’s lifestyle.

The events of the launch were concluded with a speech by Dr. Shatha Odeh, the President of the Health Work Committees: “The first of October of every year marks the launch of several public and media campaigns and events around the world to spread awareness about breast cancer, which is the number one cause of death among women. Based on official statistics, breast cancer is the most common forms of cancers spread in Palestinian society. A total of 439 cases were recorded in 2018, at the rate of 14.2% of all cancer cases and among 16.7 persons for a population of 100,000. A total of 432 cases were recorded among females, at a rate of 27.6% of all female cancer cases, and among 33.4 females for a population of 100,000 females.”

According to Dr. Odeh, the number of cases diagnosed with all forms of cancer during 2018 reached 3,210, compared with 2,923 cases during 2017. Based on official sources, the cancer was widespread among people between the age group 15-64 distributed in the governorates of Tulkarm, Salfit, Tubas, Ramallah, Al Bireh, Nablus, Jericho, Bethlehem, Jenin, Qalqilya, Hebron and Jerusalem.

According to Odeh, “today, as we launch the forth Arab campaign for breast cancer under the slogan “Don’t wait for the symptoms until you do a checkup,” we want to stress that breast cancer is a real and serious threat, which may be avoided when detected early. All health indicators reveal that nine out of ten cases are cured if detected early.” Odeh also added that since its inception, the Dunya Center for Women’s Cancer has been covering over 200 cases that approach the center every year. The Center has been an important milestone is serving Palestinian women, whereby 28,346 were examined and 3,231 social cases received a free examination. “Stemming from our belief that everyone has the right to have access to quality healthcare, the center launched the Pink Clinic in 2018, to reach over 35 villages within a period of one year, and conduct a total of 2,000 mammograms and more than 120 awareness workshops and lectures. During that period, 15 women were diagnosed with breast cancer,” according to Odeh.  

Odeh concluded that “the Health Work Committees and its strategic partners, especially Bank of Palestine, our permanent partner, and the rest of our local partners from the various sectors who take part in the annual breast cancer campaign, share our hope to expand our network of support and sponsorship and contribute to promoting the health of Palestinian women.”