Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) recently hosted the annual Breast Cancer Conference 2014 to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention, its early diagnosis, detection and management.
The focus of the conference this year was hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC), which is an inherited genetic condition through which a potential cancer risk is passed down from generation to generation in a family.
According to international guidelines, two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are associated with the majority of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. An alteration in these genes can give women a higher risk of developing these sorts of cancer. Between 5 to 10 percent of all breast and ovarian cancers have a hereditary link.
During the conference, Dr. Salha Bujassoum Al-Bader, Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist at HMC’s National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) and Director of the Breast Cancer Screening Program said: “If you have a family history of breast cancer, it is extremely important to have your personal risk assessed by a medical professional.”
She explained that tests and screening should be carried out to find out an individual’s risk of developing HBOC in cases where multiple cases of early onset of breast or ovarian cancers have occurred in the same family, breast and ovarian cancers have occurred in the same woman, or male breast cancer runs in the family.”
Dr. Al-Bader stressed that the risk of developing HBOC can be reduced with different kinds of strategies such as lifestyle changes and chemoprevention. Regular surveillance is also important. “There are preventative measures that can be put in place to reduce the risk of hereditary cancer developing, for example surgery and some other therapies. These measures can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer by up to 90 percent. The risk of developing hereditary breast or ovarian cancer is highest among women under the age of 45.”
HMC operates a specialized High Risk Clinic at the NCCCR, which is dedicated to evaluating and managing the risk of cancer for both individuals and their families. The clinic was established in March 2013 and incorporates a multidisciplinary approach with the presence of different sub-specialists. Women with any of the HBOC risk factors can receive medical assessment and investigation at the clinic.
Between March 2013 and April 2014, a total of 346 patients were referred to the clinic, and 253 have been reported to carry a high risk of developing hereditary breast or ovarian cancer. In addition, as part of the clinic, HMC also offers genetic counseling to high-risk patients to assess the possibility of the disease.
Among other topics covered during the conference were: genetics and molecular science of HBOC, the role of a genetic counselor in the prevention and early diagnosis of the disease, international updates in breast prophylactic surgery, Qatar’s experience in breast prophylactic surgery, radiological surveillance and updates in the systematic management of hereditary breast cancer.
The conference provided an opportunity for more than 300 participants, including medical oncologists, surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, to review advances in the genetics and molecular science of HBOC. Delegates were able to identify early diagnostic strategies for individuals at risk of hereditary breast cancer and learn about new approaches to the surgical management of individuals with inherited cancer.
Dr. Moustafa Hamdy, Head of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Brussels University Hospital in Belgium said: “This is a great opportunity for us to come together and talk about breast cancer; not only among healthcare professionals but also with the public. Breast cancer is not just a disease; it is much more than that. It affects the family unit as a whole. This is why we need to deal with it together as a society.”
Dr. Hamdy advised that people should learn to openly communicate about breast cancer. “Many people are silent about it or they try to ignore it - like it is taboo. We need to realize that ignoring it will not solve the problem. It is much better to discuss the risks and manage them, rather than wait for a cancer to progress, making it much more complicated and more difficult to treat.”
He commended HMC’s breast cancer multidisciplinary team and said that their efforts to raise public awareness and encourage prevention of breast cancer in Qatar are well recognized.
HMC experts who presented at the conference were: Dr. Al-Bader; Dr. Ussama Al Homsi, Senior Consultant and Head of Hematology and Oncology Department, NCCCR; Dr. Habib Al Basti, Senior Consultant of Plastic Surgery; Dr. Amal Al Obaidli, Senior Consultant, Radiology, Chief Radiologist, Women’s Hospital (WH) and Head of Breast Imaging, Hamad General Hospital; Dr. Vijay Ahuja, Senior Consultant Obstetrics and Gynecology, WH; Dr. Dominique Marcus-Soekarman, HMC Clinical Scientist.
International speakers at the conference included: Dr. Hamdy, and Professor Firouz Darroudi, Professor of Radiation Genetics and Chemical Mutagenesis, Senior Research Consultant, Department of Toxicogenetics, Leiden University Medical Center.
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Hamad Medical Corporation