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Creating awareness on cancer prevention.


MUSCAT: Forty percent of the 12 million people diagnosed with cancer each year could prevent the killer disease with protection against infections and a change in lifestyle.

[R] ee-xfOur aim in Oman this year is to create as much awareness as possible that cancer can be prevented. We need to drive home the importance of lifestyle changes among other things in fighting the disease,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar bint Mohamed Al Rawahi, the chairperson and founder of National Association for Cancer Awareness (NACA).

[R] ee-xfFor example cervical and liver cancer, both caused by infections, can be prevented. We also have to encourage people to face up to the fact that smoking, poor diet and some infections carry high risks of cancer,[R] ee-EN she says.

NACA will be among the 300 NGOs across the world, led by UICC (International Union Against Cancer) with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO), who will be raising awareness on cancer prevention this year.


[R] ee-xfWe will work with them to propagate the campaign [R] ee-eIN [R] ee-LuCancer can be prevented too[R] ee-ea [R] ee-eIN focussing on how the risk of developing cancer can be reduced significantly through simple measures,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar.

UICC[R] ee-ea s campaign focuses on how cancer can be prevented by stopping tobacco use and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding excessive sun exposure, maintaining a healthy weight, through healthy eating and regular exercising and protecting against cancer-causing infections.

According to statistics each year over 12 million people receive a cancer diagnosis and 7.6 million die of the disease.

The good news is that approximately 40 per cent of cancer is potentially preventable.

[R] ee-xfNACA is very keen on spreading the message that cancer can be prevented too,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar. The Sultanate[R] ee-ea s premier NGO has a lot of plans for the whole of this year.

On World Cancer Day, which fell on February 4, the association organised a dinner at its headquarters. On the same day pamphlets were distributed at the city centres to create awareness about how cancer can be prevented.

A party is also being organised for children afflicted with the disease at the Paediatric Oncology ward of the Royal Hospital on February 7 to mark World Cancer Day.

Cancer centre for kids

A major challenge for NACA this year would be to raise funds for the [R] ee-Luchildren[R] ee-ea s centre[R] ee-ea that is being planned near the Royal Hospital.

As part of this first effort an exhibition, [R] ee-LuChildren are Angels[R] ee-ea showcasing works of a Kuwait-based artist and journalist will be held at the Bait Al Baranda on February 21. The proceeds of this will go to the children[R] ee-ea s centre. [R] ee-xfThe next major programme for NACA after the mobile unit is the children[R] ee-ea s centre,[R] ee-EN informs Yuthar.

Yuthar explains that the centre will be a multipurpose structure built specifically for children going through cancer treatment. [R] ee-xfIt will be a centre where children affected with cancer can stay with their mother while going through the process of treatment at the Royal Hospital,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar. Normally these children who come for treatment are required to stay for six weeks. Yuthar explains, [R] ee-xfSo they miss school and their normal life. This centre will have teachers who will assist them. Besides, there will be other activities for them to pursue and even a library. We will also have volunteers who will take care of these children if the mothers want to go back to tend to their duties back home for a few days.[R] ee-EN The children[R] ee-ea s centre will take one or two years to come into existence. [R] ee-xfBut we will have to work on it now. We will start off by renting a building near the Royal Hospital and then renovating it according to the needs,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar.

The centre will cater especially to those children and parents who come from outside the capital area. [R] ee-xfNot everybody can afford to stay in a hotel,[R] ee-EN Yuthar points out.

Mobile unit

Yuthar is delighted with the response to the Mobile Mammography Unit (MMU) that was launched last year.

[R] ee-xfThis despite the fact that the unit has been stationed at the headquarters and we have not been able to move it around due to technical reasons. We

have been screening at least 20 women per day,[R] ee-EN Yuthar says.

She is appreciative of the radiologists from the ministry of health who are rendering their services to the MMU.

[R] ee-xfWe have been working closely with Dr Ahmed Al Khonji, the director of general health services, Muscat region, ministry of health who has been very helpful,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar. The new MMU is dedicated to offering digital mammograms across the Sultanate and will be travelling the roads of Oman to offer mammogram services to all residents of Oman, nationals and expatriates. It is offered free of charge.

The chairperson is hopeful that the Mobile Mammography Unit will soon be able to move across the country. Once it starts moving it will be stationed at different health centres, including Muscat, Sifa, Yiti, Muttrah, Ruwi and Wadi Kabir. [R] ee-xfWe will be soon providing a timetable of where it

will be stationed,[R] ee-EN she says. NACA is also looking for a company that will fit a lift for the MMU. [R] ee-xfWe want a company who can give us a year[R] ee-ea s guarantee for the lift,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar.

An amount of RO388,000 was needed to build the MMU and its total annual maintenance costs NACA RO151,750.

BG Group will this year donate its proceeds raised from The BG Energy Challenge, to The Mobile Mammography Unit. The BG Energy Challenge 2010 Oman will take place in the forts, wadis and lawns of Nakhal and Barka from February 10 to 12. Cycling, running, problem solving and teambuilding are just a few of the challenges teams will experience in aid of The National Association for Cancer Awareness.

Al Maha Petroleum has provided fuel cards to run the MMU.

Corporate help

Most of the companies are very keen about their social responsibility and that makes Yuthar who champions the cause of an association like NACA a very contented person.

[R] ee-xfA lot of corporate houses are very focused on their social responsibility. It makes me happy when companies themselves call up to make offers. Today things are very much different from what it was before,[R] ee-EN she says.

She is also pleased that the society[R] ee-ea s attitude itself has changed and NACA has been able to dispel widespread myths about cancer, especially breast cancer. [R] ee-xfWhen I talk of awareness and breast cancer, in 2000 when distributing pamphlets, women would throw it at my face because they didn[R] ee-ea t want to discuss the subject. Today they are open and coming forward to get screened,[R] ee-EN she says.

Yuthar is proud that Oman has come a lot way as far as awareness is concerned. [R] ee-xfThe ministry of health is doing a lot in this regard. They have done a pilot study in Ibri to teach women how to self test for breast cancer,[R] ee-EN she says.

NACA branches

NACA operates through its branches in Ibra, Nizwa, Sur and Salalah. [R] ee-xfThey have not been registered but they are functioning very well,[R] ee-EN says

Yuthar. She, however, hopes that they will be registered this year. [R] ee-xfThat will give them confidence to work with zeal and independently,[R] ee-EN she says.

NACA is affiliated with the association that promotes no tobacco use since the last two years. [R] ee-xfWe can work closely on stopping the use of tobacco concept this year. Even though the government is yet to give association status to them, they have been working for five years,[R] ee-EN she says.

NACA will hold its elections by the end of March for its executive board. [R] ee-xfWe will have many new projects but what we are going to concentrate on are the children[R] ee-ea s centre and running of the MMU,[R] ee-EN she says.

About the facilities that could help cancer patients in Oman, Yuthar says there is a serious need for palliative care, and counsellors at the Royal Hospital. [R] ee-xfWe need to train Arabic-speaking people in palliative care and we need counsellors to help patients go through their sufferings and get a positive attitude. That is what we lack in Oman. Cancer is not only about the medical side of treatment. The medical treatment here is world class,[R] ee-EN says Yuthar. [R] ee-xfWe need screening facility. For instance we don[R] ee-ea t have screening for prostrate cancer here,[R] ee-EN she says.

Yuthar has been living and breathing NACA for the past 10 years. Being a cancer survivor herself Yuthar knows exactly what it is like to be on the

other side.

Will to survive

Diagnosed with cancer in March 1998, she was then working as a medical education officer at the College of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University. On being diagnosed with the third cancer she promised herself that if she survives this episode she would dedicate her time on working towards developing awareness, advocacy and research for cancer in Oman. This was her way of giving back to her community. Yuthar knows that she needs to relax and look after her health, but she says she has a lot to do before she can take it easy. [R] ee-xfI have had a couple of scares lately, also stress doesn[R] ee-ea t do well for the disease, but there is so much to be done. I believe there must be a reason why I am alive and no matter what I[R] ee-ea ll continue doing all I can for all the issues relating to the disease,[R] ee-EN she smiles.

Yuthar truly is a fighter to the core, a role model that many would like to emulate. With her life she provides hope to those who may have given up on life and living.

[R] ee-eIN

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Feb 6, 2010
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