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Support group for leukaemia patients launched.

Dubai: Residents who suffer from Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) need not suffer in silence or lead a poor quality of life because help is at hand, a charitable organisation has said.

The Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) held the first Patient Support Group Meeting at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel on Saturday, 10 days ahead of World Cancer Day on February 4.

CML is a life-long blood cancer where the body produces more white blood cells or "police force" than normal. But this police force comprise abnormal cells, making the body unable to fight infections.

The meeting, the first in a series this year, was attended by CML patients from all over the country in order to offer the support needed to overcome their condition.

"We want to educate people about CML because people can lead active and normal lives if correct medication is given to them and if access to medication is provided to them," Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, FoCP secretary-general, told Gulf News.

Dr Sawsan said the UAE currently does not have a unified registry for cancer patients, hence the lack of official estimates of CML's prevalence in the country.

Like many illnesses, early detection is crucial for treating CML, which can be detected by a routine blood test. But the main problem is that CML's flu-like symptoms can be mistaken for another illness.

Extra attention should be paid to other underlying conditions such as pain under the left rib due to a swollen spleen, sudden weight loss, excessive sweating at night, weakness, and bruising, according to the American Cancer Society.

Unlike breast cancer where standard procedures are widely accepted to determine it -- like regular self-breast examinations and mammograms -- CML does not have such plans in place.

"In breast cancer, we all know that women have to do their monthly breast exams and we teach them how to do it. Women have to go for clinical exams with a doctor every year. After the age of 40, she has to do a mammogram. This is the standard plan that we give everyone. But for CML or even leukaemia in general, there is no plan, no manuscript that you can give patients."

Besides educational and psychological support, FoCP will also be supporting eligible CML patients in the UAE financially. The cost of annual treatment for CML ranges between Dh120,000 and Dh150,000. Patients can also opt for bone marrow transplant abroad, which is more expensive.

FoCP will screen CML patients who need financial help before determining the exact number of beneficiaries later. For the remaining meetings this year, FoCP will invite international experts on CML to provide patients with information on the latest research and advances in CML treatment.

To connect with the group, e-mail

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jan 26, 2014
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