Thank you for supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month with MAP

Throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) highlighted the many barriers to care for Palestinian women affected by the disease, and asked supporters to take action to ensure the UK Government does more to support these women. We are delighted that 349 MPs were contacted in support of the campaign!

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MAP’s partners across Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) were also active for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with a series of events and activities supporting diagnosis, treatment and care for the disease. Here are some of the highlights:

Lebanon: “Breast cancer, hearing these words used to frighten me”

In Lebanon, MAP joined with our local partner Developmental Action Without Borders, (Naba’a), to organise a breast cancer campaign to raise awareness about the disease, promote regular screening and early detection, and, ultimately, reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer.

This year, the campaign took place in six Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and successfully reached more than 850 women.

Activities included community events and health and education sessions on breast cancer, friendly stations in the camps’ neighborhoods where information and educational materials were shared, one-to-one consultations with MAP-Naba’a’s Reproductive Health project specialists, and referrals to free mammograms as needed.

Lamia’s story:

Lamia, a Palestinian mother from Ein el Helweh camp, spoke to MAP about how the Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign helped her.

“Before attending the awareness sessions, I did not know much about breast cancer and hearing these words used to frighten me. I used to think this disease is incurable and knew the treatment is very expensive, thus I preferred not to test for it even though I had heard that yearly tests are recommended for women of my age. 

“A couple of weeks ago, I went to an awareness session that was organised in my neighborhood. The information provided was all new to me. It gave me a better understanding of this disease. I know now that breast cancer is treatable and that the chances for recovery are high especially if detected early. The doctor giving the session taught us how to do the breast self-examination test and the signs and symptoms to look for. After receiving this information and speaking to a breast cancer survivor who was attending the session, I felt that I was no longer scared and I became encouraged to seek screening services.

“I remembered that earlier this month I received a text message that was sent from the Ministry of Health to all mobile phones in Lebanon. It invited women to do free mammograms as part of the national breast cancer campaign. I called the number mentioned in the text message. But they told me that Palestinians are not eligible. I was very disappointed because I knew that I cannot afford the cost of the test. When a mother has to choose between paying for food for her children and spending on anything else, including her health, she always prioritises her children.

“Luckily, after discussing this matter with the Reproductive Health project nurse, she informed me that MAP-Naba’a can cover the cost of my mammogram. I was very happy and prepared to accept the result regardless of whether it was positive or negative because I knew the project team will be there to support me.

“I did my first mammogram at 46 years of age and, thank god, the result was good. I feel really relieved- and it is all because of MAP’s and Naba’a’s support. Now, I share the information I have acquired with my friends and encourage them to do regular screening.”

Name changed to protect identity

Gaza: Pink October March

In Gaza, Palestinian women took to the streets to raise awareness of the barriers to effective breast cancer treatment and care. The march, which followed Gaza’s sea front, was organised by MAP’s partner, the Culture and Free Thought Association, which runs a women’s health clinic in the Bureij Refugee Camp.

The women highlighted dwindling medical supplies in Gaza – including chemotherapy drugs – and restrictions on the exit of patients to specialised hospitals in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, for treatments unavailable within Gaza, such as radiotherapy.

The director of the Culture and Free Thought Association, Farial Thabet, called for realisation of breast cancer patients’ human rights, including the right to health.

Those on the march urged the international community to take immediate action to end violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Gaza, including demanding an end to Israel’s 11-year unlawful closure and blockade of Gaza.

During the march the importance of early diagnosis of breast cancer and healthy lifestyles was also stressed.

West Bank: six UK breast cancer specialists travel to the West Bank

In the West Bank, MAP supported a multidisciplinary team of six UK breast cancer specialists to travel to Ramallah and Nablus to help develop Palestinian breast cancer care.

The team comprised of specialist breast cancer nurse, Michelle Johnson, two radiologists, Janet Litherland and Anthony Maxwell, and three breast cancer surgeons, Jane Macaskill, Ahmed Mustafa and Yazan Masannat.

Throughout the week-long mission, the UK medics worked alongside local health workers to help improve the care Palestinian women with breast cancer receive.

You can read more about the medical mission here