Palestinian women soon to receive care at new specialist breast unit

On International Women’s Day, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is delighted to update supporters on the new specialist breast unit which will be opening soon at the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. The MAP-supported breast unit will be the first of its kind in the northern governorates of the West Bank, providing local care and diagnostic services to Palestinian women.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Palestinian women, comprising 29% of all cancer diagnoses in the West Bank and 20% in Gaza. Despite its prevalence, Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) face significant challenges to accessing life-saving cancer treatment. Israel’s 53 years military occupation has left the Palestinian health system fragmented and fragile. As a result, cancer care is greatly impeded by restrictions to movement for both patients and health workers, and local unavailability of some essential treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

MAP spoke to Dr Ihab Abu Jish, a surgeon at Rafidia hospital, who described some of the challenges Palestinian cancer patients face: “Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment services are scattered across different governates and clinics. Sometimes treatments are unavailable in the West Bank, which adds another burden on cancer patients who must apply for a medical permit to reach scheduled treatments in occupied East Jerusalem.”

“Our health system is fragmented, and this is reflected in the treatment journey of cancer patients. Most cancer patients around the world receive diagnosis and treatment in the same hospital, but this is not the case for Palestinians whose treatments are intermittent, scattered, and full of barriers.”

These challenges are the reason the new breast unit at Rafidiah is so important, says Dr Abu Jish: “My staff and I are all looking forward to the opening of this unit which will reduce the need for Palestinian patients to travel long distances for care. It will provide patients with locally available and high-quality treatment, and most importantly, give the medical teams the opportunity to discuss cases and supervise our patients’ condition directly.”

The new MAP-supported breast unit will be the first of its kind in northern West Bank, providing specialist breast care and diagnosis to a population of 870,000 people. The unit will be equipped with the latest and most developed medical devices to diagnose and treat breast cancer, including ultrasounds, fine-needle aspiration biopsies, and a mammogram. Below you can see a design of the new breast unit, which our UK-based breast cancer volunteers played an instrumental role in supporting to design.

MAP’s Programme Officer Hana’a Qayssi, who has been overseeing the development of the unit, said: “I am looking forward to the unit opening, I can see the excitement in the eyes of the medical teams and their eagerness to be working there to provide the necessary care for their patients. The team will be able to deliver holistic care to their patients, instead of sending them to clinics all over the oPt. Through the project MAP is helping to not only support the sustainable development of the Palestinian health system, but also guarantee dignity for Palestinian patients and the medical teams treating them. I am proud to be part of MAP’s team.”

MAP looks forward to updating supporters on the opening of the specialist breast unit at Rafidia Hospital soon and hopes to resume visiting medical training missions to the unit later in the year, if the COVID-19 situation permits. Thank you to all the medical volunteers who support this vital work.

Please donate today to help continue MAP’s breast cancer programme in the West Bank and Gaza:

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