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5 Organisations Valiantly Fighting Breast Cancer in Egypt

Globally, it's the cancer that kills most women every year, yet prevention against breast cancer remains alarmingly scarce in Egypt. As the world marks Breast Cancer Month this October, we've listed five organisations fighting the disease their own way.

Largely ignored and downplayed by a society unacquainted with the term prevention, breast cancer is the number one killer cancer of Egyptian women. According to the National Cancer Institute, the disease accounts to as much as 35% of all cancer cases treated at the institution. Worldwide, statistics prove that one in every eight women is likely to develop breast cancer.

The good news is, when detected early, 95 per cent of cases are cured. But, as female-related taboos and patriarchal values hinder the detection and diagnose of the fatal disease in Egypt, the recovery rate remains alarmingly low. “In some rural areas where men are dominant, women need to ask their husbands for permission. So asking for permission to go out to a place, where they will have to undress and show their breasts is very difficult for them,” Dr. Norran Hussein, founder of the Egyptian Society of Women’s Health, tells Cairoscene.

As Breast Cancer Awareness month is marked globally every October, we’ve listed five organisations working to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention and research and treat the disease against all odds. 

Baheya 

Known as the Middle East’s first free breast cancer hospital, the centre located in Haram offers treatment, mammograms, and surgery completely for free. The organisation is also very active in organizing awareness activities, often partnering with other institutions to hold marathons, and is the only establishment that offers in-hospital physio-therapy to help women better overcome the disease. “The main idea behind Baheya is not treatment; we want it to be about early detection,” Hazem Elleithy, one of the board members told CairoScene earlier in 2015.

Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt (BCFE)

Arguably one of Egypt’s most reputable organizations in the field, this legendary organization has been working on cancer care and diagnosis for women across different social and economic segments for 10 years. As part of their services, they offer free psychological support for women who are diagnosed with cancer, with life coaching sessions twice a month and laughter yoga sessions.             

Egyptian Society of Women's Health

From cooking classes to discounted mammograms and marathons, the organization holds awareness and prevention at the core of their work. Founded by a former executive director of BCFE, the organisation particularly supports low-income and illiterate women across Egypt, but they also have support networks for cancer survivors, such as the ‘survivor’s corner’. “We hold awareness sessions, lectures at mosques, psychological therapy and scanning for free whenever we have funds,” says founder Norran Hussein.  

International Cancer Research Center 

The pioneering center, whose founder Yehia Abugabal was named one of the world’s 30 under 30 by Forbes, heads the only conference specialized in the breast gynecological cancers in Africa and the Middle-East. Titled BGICS (Breast Gynaecological International Cancer Conference), the organisation is a non-profit society aiming at promoting standards of care for patients with breast cancer. In an effort to build a national centre equivalent to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), its annual event brings international experts from across the world to share practices and improve patients’ quality of life. “We now work on four areas: patient support, research, awareness, and education. Because there is no treatment for cancer so far, what we do is to gather and set up guidelines according to experience on the best approach to different types of cancer,” Abugabal told CairoScene in an earlier interview.

CanSurvive 

Although the organization works with all types of cancer, they have a specific fund for breast cancer patients. The entity works mainly with cancer patients and survivors, giving them tools for self-advocacy and encouraging them to educate others. From sharing experiences, to reducing the emotional stress that comes along when someone is diagnosed with cancer, the NGO organizes communities focused on supporting patients, giving access to medical and psychological support and providing transportation to their treatment centres.