MAP breast cancer delegation visits occupied Palestinian territory

This week, a team of British medical specialists has begun a two-week visit to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) as part of the programme of Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) to improve care for Palestinian patients with breast cancer.

On Sunday 17 September, breast cancer surgeon and Member of Parliament Dr Philippa Whitford and breast cancer nurse specialist Angela Scullion visited patients and staff at the Palestine Medical Complex (PMC) in Ramallah. On Monday and Tuesday, Dr Whitford performed two surgeries for patients at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem and two at the PMC.

During the operations, Dr Whitford taught local surgical teams a technique for assessing the spread of cancer into lymph nodes called ‘sentinel node biopsy’. It is hoped that, as this technique can give surgeons a clearer picture of the spread of cancer in a patient, that it may reduce the high number of Palestinian women undergoing axillary node clearance – a more drastic surgical process which can lead to life-long complications such as lymphedema. 

Dr Whitford and Angela Scullion have spent time with local medical teams to learn about the diagnostic techniques and treatment currently provided to breast cancer patients, and the challenges they face in providing high-quality care. In Ramallah on Friday, they held an educational symposium for oncologists and surgeons to discuss UK ‘best practice’ in breast cancer care.

It is hoped that this visit will be the first step in a two-year programme to help improve the quality of breast cancer care in the oPt, and to in turn improve the outcomes for patients affected by the disease. This will develop MAP’s existing work on women’s cancer care, which includes our support for the Dunya Women’s Cancer Centre in Ramallah.

Next week Dr Whitford will return to Gaza with an expanded team, including an oncologist, a radiologist and a palliative care specialist, to undertake surgeries and provide training at Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City. Dr Whitford previously worked at Al Ahli as a medical volunteer with MAP in the early 1990’s.

The trip comes ahead of international Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, when MAP and our partners will be highlighting the barriers Palestinian women face to accessing the treatment and care they need while living under occupation and blockade.

You can read more about how restrictions to freedom of movement, medical shortages and other factors affect breast cancer care in the West Bank and Gaza by reading our fact sheet and infographic.