We’re not kidding here, this is a call out to all women in Bahrain to come together and be Breast Friends – Dr. Sara Al Reefy’s awesome initiative to remove the stigma and fear around breast cancer conversations and screenings.
The month of October has been well established around the world as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where campaigns and initiatives are launched to raise awareness and get people in conversation about the importance of regular check-ups, treatments and prevention methods. Bahrain has been no stranger in campaigning for this cause, with progressive and extensive initiatives taking place all month long.
But even with the abundance of awareness campaigns, women in Bahrain tend to keep it to themselves out of fear of talking about it, until it’s too late. This is why the London Breast Care Centre, founded by Dr. Sara Al Reefy, is launching its newest initiative “Breast Friends”.
Let’s start with the facts, shall we?
- Bahrain has an alarmingly high rate of breast cancer incidents where it is ranked 6th worldwide, taking up 37.4% of cancers in Bahrain.
- It is the most common form of cancer found among Bahraini women, more so than lung, prostate or thyroid cancer.
- It affects women in a much younger age group ranging from 40-45 years old, compared to women in the US who are diagnosed at the age of 60 years old and above. Statistics have shown that 1 in 8 women will be or are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, a disease with very high survival rates if detected early.
So what can we do about this? This is where Dr. Al Reefy steps in, and comes into the rescue wearing her pink cape.
Dr. Al Reefy set up a mobile breast unit that travels through Bahrain’s towns and villages over a one-month period to provide free services and make it more accessible to a larger community. Following the success of Dr. Al Reefy’s effort and campaigning in 2016, the clinic managed to get 1,472 women and 6 men to get scanned through the mobile unit alone, where 300 people were diagnosed and 35 people were saved in that month due to early detection.
Her newest initiative aims to continue her efforts to raise awareness through a moving video campaign titled “Breast Friends”, where best friends come together and have a fun, casual conversation about how much they really know each other and answering questions about themselves. This would ultimately lead them to pledge to check and scanned annually. Dr. Al Reefy is also collaborating with corporations and influencers to “pay it forward” encouraging their staff and followers to get checked and scanned, and LBCC will be doing the same for the community on their behalf. This initiative allows companies and influencers to get involved in campaigning to raise awareness about the importance of getting checked and early detection.
Fear and lack of knowledge is seen as one of many barriers preventing women to get checked. London Breast Care Centre is creating a movement to have these conversations, share experiences and facts to keep them alert and aware, as well as become a support system for those already diagnosed and recovering. The goal is simple: the more you know, the faster you get checked, the higher chance of survival. As quoted by Dr. Al Reefy, “Don’t be a statistic, be a survivor”.
Dr. Sara Al Reefy is the first female Arab surgeon to qualify as an Oncoplastic breast surgeon. Completing her fellowship in 2011 in the United Kingdom, Dr. Al Reefy utilized her knowledge and experience to start LBCC in Bahrain, the first comprehensive multidisciplinary breast care centre in the GCC. In only her first year of operation, she received the Bahraini Entrepreneurship Award in 2016 for her innovative services. The clinic boasts of state of the art equipment, including a 3D mammogram machine, a very advanced addition to the clinic that is designed to detect cancerous cells before lumps form and is 41% more accurate than other machines available, making it one of its kind in the GCC. Dr. Al Reefy constantly gives workshop, lectures and participates in events in the community to advocate for women in getting the help and information they need.