The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, observed in October, provided an opportune time to remind women about the importance of beginning regular breast cancer screening from the age of 45, said a senior consultant at Hamad Medical Corporation's (HMC) National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR).
Dr Salha Bujassoum, who is also director of the Hereditary Cancer and High-Risk Screening Programme, recalled that the team at NCCCR’s High-Risk Breast Screening and Genetics Programme assessed over 800 patients last year.
According to Dr Bujassoum there are a number of genetic and environmental or lifestyle factors that can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. She notes that the screening service helps women understand their cancer risk based on a number of factors, including age, personal health history, and genetic or family history.
The High-Risk Breast Screening and Genetics Programme provides genetic counselling and testing services to patients who are concerned about their hereditary cancer risk because of a personal and/or family history.
“Genetic counselling can be very helpful for those who have a strong family history of breast cancer. Evaluations are carried out by a specialist board-certified genetic counselor and this specialist can help assess an individual’s lifetime risk of developing cancer,” she said.
Dr Bujassoum noted that the Hereditary Cancer and High-Risk Screening Programme is the first of its kind in the region. Genetic testing is performed through the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, with some tests being sent abroad for analysis. Based on the patient’s individual risk assessment, appropriate counselling, testing and prevention measures are offered to reduce the likelihood and incidence of breast and other types of cancer.
“Our multidisciplinary and collaborative approach sees a team of specialists, which includes genetic counsellors, psychologists, surgeons, and medical oncologists, working together to develop the best plan of care for each and every patient. After their assessment, our team discusses risk-reducing strategies with the patient. This can include prophylactic surgery and chemoprevention use of medication to lower the risk or prevent cancer,” added Dr Reem Jawad al-Sulaiman, a certified genetic counsellor at NCCCR.
The Hereditary Cancer and High-Risk Screening Programme is an example of a multidisciplinary service that aims to achieve excellence in cancer care through offering prevention and personalised medicine and supports the National Cancer Framework 2017-2022 ‘Achieving Excellence in Cancer Care: A vision for 2022’.
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