Saudi Cancer Foundation and the Giant Steps

March 14, 2012

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim | Arab News

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

A few years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I saw her suffer and there was nothing I could do. Doctors told me it was only a matter of time before it was over. She died May 2008.

From that day I was interested about cancer research, because I ended up asking myself the question what if she was diagnosed earlier? Would doctors have been able to cure her? Months later I met Sheik Abdulaziz Alturki, president of the Saudi Cancer Foundation in a social function. I chatted with him for a long time about the Saudi Cancer Foundation and what they do and what is their goal. What did this Saudi Cancer Foundation do for so many Saudis and expatriates and when did they start? And how serious is the growth in the number of people diagnosed with this disease? According to the World Health Organization, there are more than half a million deaths annually because of this disease. And in Saudi Arabia, cancer is growing. There are as many as 7,000 new cases reported annually. And some medical experts say, there could be more growth in the number of cancer cases in the future.

Cancer is a disease that is diagnosed in men, women, young and old. Diet, culture and environment play a big part in the growth of this disease. In Saudi Arabia, the Eastern Province ranks number one among all the 13 provinces in the Kingdom.

So far, no reason is known for that. At this time, the research efforts are concentrating on treating the disease. But, it is more important to find out why the growth and what causes this growth. The Saudi Cancer Foundation was established in 2004, it accomplished a lot of achievements. Last Wednesday and Thursday, there was a very important conference and an exhibition held in Dammam.

The conference and the exhibition were inaugurated by Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, governor of the Eastern Province. This conference is the first International Joint Conference to be held in the area. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), King Fahd Specialist Hospital-Dammam, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Saudi Cancer Foundation organized the conference. Hosting this kind of conference in Saudi Arabia is a very important recognition of the efforts of the Saudi Cancer Foundation and what it stands for.

The conference provided means of collaboration with world renowned organizations to try to explore disease behavior in Saudi Arabia. And with this conference, the Saudi Cancer Foundation is becoming a part of the international effort. The conference shed light on the management of colon, breast and lung cancer. In the conference we saw and heard speeches that gave insight regarding new approaches for the prevention, medical and surgical management of the diseases. Dr. Khalid Al-Shaibani, King Fahd Specialist Hospital CEO; Sheikh Abdulaziz Alturki, President Saudi Cancer Foundation; Dr. Youcef Rustum, conference co-chairman; and Dr. Douglas Blayney, professor of medicine Stanford University School of Medicine all gave remarks about the importance of improving cancer care through scientific forums and educational programs.

The Saudi Cancer Foundation had taken giant steps forward. The SCF is only eight years old, but it made an impact in Saudi society. Members of the foundation spoke with a low voice, but the accomplishments had far more positive impact on cancer patients in the area. The SCF was also able to connect the efforts of different foundations within the Kingdom. And this is why it is very important for Saudi businessmen and women, banks and Saudi companies to join hands with the Saudi Cancer Foundation. Their efforts are not only limited to lectures or brochures. They have specially designed vehicles that are used as mobile check-up clinics. They have many young and old volunteers to help and talk to men and women who are diagnosed with this disease. And it is very important for different organizations in the Kingdom to widen the research area to know exactly what caused the growth in the number of cancer patients. And the presence of Saudi doctors and volunteers who are willing to assist in many ways, make it a must to push the efforts toward taking care of the cancer patients. And we all know that the wheel has already started to turn to widen the role of the program. An example of this is a program launched in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia named “Pink Eastern.” Dr. Fatmah Al-Mulhim launched a drive in all Eastern Province cities to encourage Saudi women to do earlier check ups and do mammograms, to find out about their health. The program also included visiting the cancer patients and comforting them.

There were lectures to cancer patients about how to deal with the disease after it is diagnosed. Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries in the world in regard to allocating a very high percentage of its annual budget for the health care system. There are billions of dollars spent on building hospitals and health care centers, but organizations such as the Saudi Cancer Foundation and any medical research institutes are another important means of outreach to the patients and their families.

— Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a Commodore (Retired), Royal Saudi Navy. He is a frequent contributor to the SUSRISblog.  He can be contacted at: almulhimnavy@hotmail.com

Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally published in Arab News.

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