Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Encouraging Arab Women to Beat the Cancer Epidemic: An Investigation into Positive Attributes That Encourage Arab Women to Practice Prevention Methods for Cancer

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Encouraging Arab Women to Beat the Cancer Epidemic: An Investigation into Positive Attributes That Encourage Arab Women to Practice Prevention Methods for Cancer

Article excerpt


Worldwide, cancer is a leading cause of death among men and women. In the year 2004, approximately 7.4 million deaths were from cancer alone. Amongst women, breast cancer is one of the main types of cancer leading to "overall cancer mortality" (1, 2). In the United States, among women, breast cancer is the foremost diagnosis of new cancers and the second leading cause of death after lung cancer (3). An epidemiological surveillance indicates that during the year 2005, the age-adjusted mortality rates of breast cancer was 24.8 per 100,000 among U.S. female population (4). According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the fourth ranked cause of death in the Arab world after cardiovascular diseases, infectious/parasitic diseases, and injuries (5). In the next two decades, cancer is predicted to increase 100180% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (5). In the Arab world, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, breast cancer is increasingly occurring among young pre-menopausal women as opposed to what happens in western countries, where breast cancer is common among women at menopausal age. More disturbingly, most cases of breast cancer in the Arab world are detected at advanced stages (1, 6, 7).

The published facts and statistics about breast cancer are indicators of a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The lack of knowledge and awareness about breast cancer, primary and secondary prevention, and how to detect breast cancer in its early stages are causing preventable fatalities among women in this part of the world.

Why this topic?

The topic of breast cancer is chosen due to the situation in the Arab world in general. Breast cancer is increasing tremendously in the Middle Eastern countries. Many young females are losing their lives due to being diagnosed with breast cancer in advanced stages (5). In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), women are diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages 20-50 years, reflecting a diagnostic that starts at younger age for that specific type of cancer. These facts are raising concerns about the lack of knowledge about breast cancer and attitudes regarding primary and secondary prevention, especially about breast self-exam and other early detections methods.

Overview of breast cancer

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States indicate that the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is a little less than 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. In addition, during the year 2010, it was estimated that there was approximately 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women, about 54,010 new cases of non-invasive carcinoma, and around 39,840 deaths from breast cancer in the U.S. female population alone (3). Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer (3). In the American population, breast cancer death rates have been going down as a result of increased awareness about breast cancer prevention and early detection, as well as the improvement of treatment techniques. Today, with primary and secondary prevention and the advancement in treatments methods, there are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States (3).

On defining breast cancer

To help the reader understand the issue at hand, a short background on what constitutes breast cancer is presented. "Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts" (10). The American Cancer Society defines breast cancer as a "malignant tumor that starts from cells of the breast." A malignant tumor is a "group of cancer cells that may grow into or invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body" (3). According to the Mayo Clinic, breast cancer occurs among men and women, but mostly in women (10). Early menarche: women who started their period before age 12 years, late parity: women who had their first child after the age of 30 years, women with nulliparity

Types of breast cancer

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, "Breast cancer is categorized by whether it begins in the ducts or lobules, which are the organs responsible for breast milk production" (11). …

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