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Supporting Breast Cancer Efforts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

By Chandini Portteus, Chief Mission Officer, Susan G. Komen

On Friday, May 16, 2014, I was honored to participate in a breast cancer panel and spend an evening with an amazing group of female Saudi leaders from all walks of life.  Nearly 40 women from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia arrived just a couple of days earlier to take part in a 5-day leadership development course at GE’s Crotonville leadership academy outside of New York from May 14-18.  On this Friday evening, we had an opportunity to discuss the importance of continuing to raise breast cancer awareness in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in our joint efforts to end breast cancer forever worldwide.

Integral to Susan G. Komen’s mission is our belief that where a woman lives shouldn’t determine whether she lives, which is why Komen continues to support activities outside the United States and is currently active in more than 30 countries around the world. Since 2011, Komen has been working closely with GE in Saudi Arabia to support the Ministry of Health’s breast cancer efforts. Our work through this partnership has three priorities – 1) implementing a public awareness campaign, 2) conducting call center training sessions, and 3) facilitating medical providers’ trainings.

The Ministry of Health has shared that more than 20,000 people were reached through these activities and over 11,000 women have been screened since the program launched on March 31, 2012. Highlighting the urgency to address breast cancer, which is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Iman Baroum, Consultant Breast Radiologist and Chief of Central Coordination Unit for Jeddah Breast Cancer Screening Pilot Program with the Saudi Ministry of Health and one of the panelists, said that “We must be ready to face the challenge of foreseeable increase in breast cancer burden in the Kingdom; the success of pilot programs in Riyadh and Jeddah have reinforced the need for a national breast cancer screening program, which the Ministry of Health is now planning to deploy.”

Pat Pearman, GE healthymagination, Director of Brain Health, discussed GE’s commitment to supporting global health initiatives and highlighted the impact of the Wyoming Women First project.  Pat shared that even women who are homeless will take advantage of the opportunity to be screened if given the chance.

Rounding the panel discussion, Gail Blanke, Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Lifedesigns, talked about Avon breast cancer efforts around the world including in Jeddah and urged all participants to make a difference in their communities and take control of their health. Gail reminded us all of Margaret Meade’s statement that we should. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Following the discussion, Golnar Kamalvand, moderator and GE Solutions Program Manager, asked all to write on a card an action step that they will undertake once they return in an effort to address breast cancer. The cards will be mailed to participants two weeks upon their return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a friendly reminder of the commitment they made and how their efforts can make an impact in their community.

It was heartening to see the level of commitment and dedication to ending breast cancer among these talented women. While great strides against this terrible disease have been made, more works remains until quality cancer care can be made available for every woman and man who needs it. That is why Komen will continue to partner with local NGOs, governments, and businesses until we see the world without breast cancer.

 

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