UK specialist supports breast cancer care ahead of new clinic opening in the West Bank

From 28 November to 2 December, a UK breast cancer specialist travelled to the West Bank with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) to support the development of Palestinian breast cancer care.

Jane Macaskill, a Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, took part in MAP’s first breast cancer mission to the West Bank since March 2020. Jane has been instrumental in advising on the design of a new MAP-supported breast unit in Rafidia Hospital, in Nablus, so we were delighted that she could visit the unit now that it is almost fully operational.

During her mission, Jane spent three days supporting the team at the unit in Rafidia Hospital to prepare for its opening in early 2022. She also worked alongside local colleagues in outpatients and theatre, reviewing 21 women with breast cancer and performing six operations. 

On day four of her mission, Jane visited the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem where she discussed some of the breast cancer cases there. Finally, she visited the breast clinic at Beit Jala Hospital near Bethlehem, with the team from Rafidia, to review patients and learn more about how the clinic is run and the flow of work, so that the team can apply any lessons learnt to the new unit at Rafidia.

“I was honoured to be able to travel to the West Bank to visit our colleagues and see the amazing developments in breast cancer services despite the pandemic restrictions,” said Jane. “Highlights included attending the multidisciplinary team meeting at Augusta Victoria Hospital, meeting the new oncoplastic breast surgeon and the breast team at Beit Jala Hospital, and seeing the substantial progress in the building of the breast unit at Rafidia Hospital. It was really exciting to see the enthusiasm of the local teams as they seek to improve outcomes for patients with breast cancer in the West Bank.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on travel, remote multidisciplinary team (MDT) meetings have been taking place regularly to support the diagnosis, treatment and overall management of breast cancer patients in the north of the West Bank. The MDT meetings are an opportunity for UK breast cancer specialists, including Jane, to be in regular contact with the team at Rafidia Hospital. Together, the team have reviewed breast cancer cases, advised on the specifications for equipment procured for the new breast unit, and supported the functioning of the local MDT.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Palestinian women in the West Bank, comprising 29% of all cancer diagnoses. But restrictions on freedom of movement for both patients and healthcare workers, shortages of essential medicines, and the fragmentation of the health system in the occupied Palestinian territory are major obstacles to effective treatment and care for Palestinians with breast cancer. The situation has been compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.

You can support our vital work to provide breast cancer services in Palestine by making a donation today.

Photo: Jane Macaskill and Dr Ehab Yousef, who will be the lead surgeon at the breast unit at Rafidia Hospital.

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