Cancer control and care in the Middle East and North Africa

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Published: 26 Jan 2018
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Dr Ibrahim Al Sheneber - Saudi Cancer Foundation, Khobar, Saudi Arabia

Dr Sheneber speaks with ecancer at the 10th BGICC in Cairo about the work of the Saudi Cancer Foundation, and collaborations with partners in the region to better prevent and treat cancer.

He discusses collaborations with other BGICC members and organisations in fighting cancer, including publications to disseminate training and guidelines, noting the founding of a new early detection centre.

Dr Sheneber describes the importance of cancer prevention, and his work as a cofounder of the International Consortium for Cancer Prevention.

For more about global cancer control, watch our coverage of UICC 2016 here.

I am really glad to be here in the BGICC. I have been here many times and this conference is really a very high quality conference. The Saudi Cancer Foundation has signed an agreement with the BGIC so that we collaborate in different aspects in fighting cancer in general. We always become represented in this conference and we attend this conference and we also invite the organisers of this conference to attend our regular yearly international conference in Saudi Arabia. We have also collaborated with BGIC to write a book on cancer which has already been published. This book is called Cancer Care for Primary Care Physicians because we think primary care physicians are the first line and they are very important to detect cancer early and refer them to the specialist. It's very important to teach them not to miss any cases and I am glad that Dr Hesham El Ghazaly, the Chairman of this conference, BGIC, has written a chapter in this book. So this book is published by the Saudi Cancer Foundation on different aspects of oncology.
We think that there are so many organisations now in the world who are fighting cancer and although they all have the same objective they have different mechanisms. Some of them are concentrating on one type of cancer only, like breast or gynaecological cancer, and some of them are very broad and general, fighting cancer by any means and anywhere and anyhow just to decrease the incidence of cancer and to alleviate the suffering of patients with cancer and their family. So we have in the Saudi Cancer Foundation, for example, we have collaborations with so many organisations like the EASSO, for example, which is the European Asian Society of Surgical Oncology; we have a collaboration with the BGIS, Breast and Gynaecological Malignancy.
And there is now a new focus on cancer prevention that's becoming very important in the Middle East and when it comes to cancer prevention the first cancer we look at is breast because it's the most common cancer in the Middle East and it's the most common cancer in Saudi Arabia. That's why the Saudi Cancer Foundation actually we have just opened our new centre for early detection of cancer and we have already started breast cancer screening, actually many years ago. This centre will be focussing on breast cancer screening, cervical cancer for women by doing tests which are called Pap smears which we take a non-invasive test and we take a specimen from the woman and test that for cancer cells. We are also doing CT scans for lung screening, especially for high risk people like smokers. In the very near future we're going to start doing virtual colonoscopy which is an X-ray test to detect colon cancer and we will be also doing prostate cancer screening.
Also we have in the Saudi Cancer Foundation, we are co-founders of the International Consortium for Cancer Prevention. This is really a very young consortium, we have just started structuring the Board of Directors and associates and the workers and so on. We will be concentrating in this consortium on prevention and cancer prevention and I hope that we can do a lot of things to prevent cancer because cancer prevention, cancer screening, seem to be probably the most effective way to fight cancer. Any doctor can communicate with us, our site is and they can contact us and we are a charity organisation. Actually I am the Director of Medical Affairs and I am a volunteer, I'm not an employee there. So we have more than 2,000 volunteers in the charity, we welcome anybody from anywhere to participate with us, to collaborate with us, to do any work that will help the society or that will help themselves in the fight against cancer. We are very active in making conferences and educational activities as well, we've done about 120 scientific activities so far. So we are very pleased and we will be very happy to help anybody who communicates with us for any help or service.
Also we are proud that the Governor of the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Highness Prince Saud bin Nayef, agreed and sponsored a reward for cancer research every year. So far we have done three rounds of cancer research, three years, and we have the first prize winner, second prize winner, third prize winner and they get appreciation and they get also a very good amount of money as an encouragement and help in order to encourage the research on oncology in the Arab world.