ABU DHABI, -- Women are not heeding warnings to have breast screenings, despite doctors urging that early detection brings a higher chance of full recovery, according to a UAE daily.

Dr. Mohanad Diab, Head of Oncology at NMC Healthcare, said that about 85 percent of breast cancer patients visited the doctor when it was in its late stages, "when the disease has already spread into the lymph nodes or other places".

The National carried an editorial today explaining that breast cancer has four stages, and catching it at the first stage means the chance of survival is between 95 and 100 percent.

"Mammograms and ultrasounds can detect changes in the breast two years before a woman can feel it," Dr. Diab said. "That is why we always recommend mammograms annually as soon as a woman is above 40 years of age," the paper said.

He said that reasons for not having the tests included a lack of sufficient insurance cover for expatriates, and Emiratis not knowing that they did not have to pay. Abu Dhabi has a programme allowing Emiratis free annual screening after they turn 40, but provisions elsewhere vary.

Dr. Diab said that a lot of women do not realise they are eligible for free screening. "We need to give them more information and say, please get checked. You are covered.

NMC offers free mammograms to women over 40, regardless of their insurance policy or nationality." Dr. Diab said that other hospitals should do the same, or at least introduce better measures for expatriate women.

Dr. Urfan Ul Haq, a consultant oncologist at Abu Dhabi's Burjeel Hospital, agreed that there should be a screening programme covering all women. "Having mammograms is so important so if this could also be started for the expatriates, that would be good," he said.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UAE, accounting for 43 percent of those diagnosed in women, and is the second leading cause of death among women, according to the 2012 Cancer Registry Report.

Health professionals say that from the age of 20, women should carry out monthly self-examinations and visit a doctor every three years. After 40, they should have a mammogram every two years, as recommended by Health Authority Abu Dhabi, or every year if there is family history of cancer.

Medeor 24x7 Hospital in Abu Dhabi is offering free mammograms to all women this month through its 'Pink Me Early' awareness initiative, launched ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October Dr. Anandmabee Sinha, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, stressed the importance of early detection. "If a woman feels a lump in the breast growing rapidly, with or without pain, she should get it checked." She added that she felt that embarrassment and uncertainty were key factors in women failing to be screened, despite extensive awareness-raising efforts.

Source: Emirates News Agency