An Interview with Qatar Cancer Society Ms. Mariam Al-Nuaimi – General Manager
How does the Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) work towards raising awareness for this disease?
Raising awareness about cancer and ways in which it can be prevented are the main goals of the Qatar Cancer Society. We aim to achieve those goals while working towards Qatar’s Vision 2030, which places human development at the top of the list of investments. From this, the Society ensures awareness is raised in the community, and in all organizations and government entities. QCS targeted around 86 businesses this year, ranging from banks, hotels, private companies and malls, to cooperate with the Society, as well as hospitals and health centers to hold awareness seminars and workshops for employees and the visitors of these 20 sectors. This, along with targeting 30 governmental organizations and ministries in the country.
Is gaining support your greatest challenge? What are some of the other challenges you face?
Support is vital. Providing financial support for cancer patients who are unable to afford it is one of our goals as well. The Society has fully funded treatments and taken under its wing almost 1700 cases from residents who are unable to afford the expensive treatments — and that’s for 2015 alone. This, along with other goals, like presentation of projects about health policies and a national program for combating cancer, like coordinating with various entities that treat cancer and follow up on the region’s progress, like understanding and calculating the size of the problem, including the percentage of those affected by the disease, how far it would spread and the death toll from it, as well as creating and supporting research and private studies about cancer, treatments and the newest ways of prevention.
What are some of the highlighted challenges you deal with in the Society?
There are two types of challenges, the first being the idea of acceptance of the disease by the community; the Society ensures that we are working towards making that image positive by any means possible. We have made tremendous progress on that front. The second challenge being financial support, which is needed for the Society to implement its plans and programs, and work towards its vision to create a more aware community which does not fear cancer. This is where we ensure the implementation of health programs and give it a sense of continuity until it achieves its purpose, reaching the biggest segment of the community possible and working with organizations and foundations in the next stage.
What is the stigma attached to cancer? Why is it not talked about often?
The Qatar Cancer Society puts in a lot of effort to change the stigma attached to the disease, and we have thankfully worked towards achieving a big part of that goal in the past couple of years. The image is slowly changing to a more positive one. We hope in the next stage to raise more awareness and work towards removing the fear and the stigma by early diagnoses and detection. Many are afraid of the outcomes of early tests from fear of suffering and so they prefer to remain silent. We also find some who refuse to go to the hospital, fearing someone they know might see them, and perhaps even travel abroad for treatments to mask that shame. This is why we focus on early detection and promote the fact that prevention is the best treatment; this is done through a series of workshops, awareness seminars and lectures that serve this purpose specifically.
January is Cervical Cancer month on your monthly awareness schedule; can you tell us about your plan to raise awareness of this specific cancer?
QCS follows the global protocol of disease awareness; January happens to be the month of cervical cancer, which is mainly prominent in women, making it the second most diagnosed cancer in women. QCS created the campaign “You are worth it… get a check up” which was launched and run through January in order to raise awareness of cervical cancer. This allows the barriers of fear and shyness to be broken, affirming early detection and providing the test for free in Al Haya Medical Center. A closing ceremony was held, allowing the women who were tested to win valuable prizes including 3 gold pieces and 3 diamond rings. An awareness video was also included and was aimed at getting more women involved in the campaign. Furthermore, it is important to note that a vaccine is available for cervical cancer and can be administered in most women’s health clinics.
What is the latest update on the new Awareness Centre that is set to open in Qatar soon?
Delivery of the Awareness Center is planned for March 2016. It will hopefully open to the public soon after. This center would be one of its kind in the region and would provide financial support to our claims and programs, as well as bringing support from the nation as a whole and from health industry leaders. I would like to extend my gratitude and thanks to Ooredoo for supporting this establishment which aims to care for individuals and will then reflect on the community as a whole and the progress of its members.
What is the Cancer Society’s strategy this year?
We are working with other GCC countries to create a unified campaign under the umbrella of the Gulf Cancer Association. Being a member of the Association, QCS is dedicating an entire week (Gulf Cancer Week) to raise awareness of the disease. We have planned and organized a 5km marathon on the 6th of February, and are expecting more than 400 people on the Doha Corniche at 10am. This is also a chance to promote and raise awareness of sports being vital for disease prevention and the importance of healthy eating habits. During the marathon, leaflets, booklets and information will be handed out talking about the disease in general, as well as other literature about smoking and obesity. There will also be a raffle with five prizes for participants.
Everything is available in Qatar. We constantly bombard you with news about health and campaigns and regular check ups. A healthy lifestyle is achievable. Everything you need is right at your fingertips. Taking care of your health is a must and you will be impressed with the amount of activities and exercises that you can do here. We thank Health and Life Magazine for its interest and constant support in QCS and its initiatives.