Primary Health Care Corporation Launches ‘Screen for Life’ Program

The formal launch of ‘Screen for Life’, a life-saving program that promotes education, awareness and early detection of cancer in Qatar, was officially announced at a press conference conducted by officials of public and private organizations tasked with delivering Qatar’s new wellness model of healthcare as outlined in its National Health Strategy (NHS) 2011-2016.

The press conference, which also announced the details of the program, was held on Sunday, 20th of December, at the Sheraton Doha Hotel.

The implementation of the program is consistent with the National Cancer Strategy’s key recommendation 5.2, which states the need in Qatar for a population-based cancer screening program.

Present at the press conference were: Dr. Mariam Ali Abdulmalik, Managing Director of the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC); Sheikha Leena Bint Nasser Bin Khaled Al-Thani, , Ambassador of the ‘Screen for Life’ Breast Cancer awareness program; Sheikh Dr. Mohamed Al Thani, Director of Public Health Department at Ministry of Public Health, Mr. Norman Hames, COO of RadNet; and Dr. Salha Boujassoum, Co-Chair of the Breast Cancer Tumor Board and the Clinical Lead for the Breast Cancer MDT from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).

PHCC, a provider of a wide range of primary healthcare services across the State of Qatar, is the lead implementing corporation of the program. PHCC was given the authority to spearhead the initiative under Qatar’s National Cancer Program, which was initiated by the Ministry of Public Health  upon review of international best practices on excellent cancer care.

The program’s core objective is to save precious lives by encouraging women aged 45 years or older with no symptoms to submit themselves to breast cancer screening through mammography. The campaign also calls on both men and women aged 50 years or older with no symptoms to undergo bowel cancer screening through FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test). The Ministry of Public Health recommends breast cancer screening every three years and bowel cancer screening every year.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the survival rate from breast cancer when caught at an early stage is 98%. Meanwhile, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance, the survival rate from bowel cancer when caught at an early stage is 90%.

Data from Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health indicated that among the top malignant primary sites of cancer in Qatar, breast cancer accounted for 17.42%, while bowel cancer made up 10.55%. As far as the age group of female breast cancer incidence, the ages of 45-49 years showed the highest incidence at 16.2%. On the other hand, for bowel cancer, the age group of 50-54 had 15.2% incidence in males and 18.4% in females.

“This marks the first time that a population-based cancer screening program with a formal organizational structure is being actively undertaken across the country,” said Dr. Abdulmalik. “Through our state-of-the-art facilities in our cancer screening centers in Al Wakra, Leabaib and Rawdat Al Khail as well as our Mobile Van, we have partnered with some of the leading expert providers of systems and technologies from the private sector as we take our mission seriously and aim to encourage people to make the right choice for their health, their peace of mind and that of their families. This is mainly because the decision to undergo cancer screening impacts more than just the patient.”

“National Cancer Program under the directive of the Ministry of Public Health and HE Mr. Abdulla bin Khalid Al Qahtani, The Minister of Public Health, is very pleased to attend the media launch of the new breast and bowel cancer screening services in the State of Qatar,” said Sheikh Dr. Mohamed Al Thani, Director of Public Health Department at Ministry of Public Health. “Cancer causes great sadness in Qatar; however, cancer is no longer a fatal illness with early diagnosis of the disease being crucial to long term survival and successful care and treatment. Screening helps diagnose cancer earlier and is an important modality in ensuring survival and timely treatment. SCH together with HMC and PHCC are the responsible organizations for the new screening service. Each organization plays a crucial role showing the importance of good co-ordination of care across the health system.”

“Today is indeed a historic chapter in the fight against cancer throughout the State of Qatar,” said Sheikha Leena. “Being proud of the actions taken by Qatar’s healthcare sector in the country’s overall effort of ensuring the health and wellbeing of its citizens and residents, I am truly honored to be the Ambassador for the breast cancer screening program. As a long-time advocate and supporter of the importance of early screening and detection, I will certainly work hand-in-hand with the proponents of this program as well all endeavors to save more lives.”

To ensure the realization of this vision and success of the campaign, PHCC has tapped the expertise of an international consortium of only of the finest companies in this field. These include: Fujifilm from Japan, which supplies medical equipment and information solutions; RadNet from the U.S.A., which performs clinical and operational services; and SMS, which provides on-the-ground administrative support in Doha.

“RadNet has demonstrated its expertise across various initiatives such as research, education, technology, clinical best practices and quality,” said Hames. “Such expertise joined with Specialized Medical Solutions as the leading provider of a complete range of health care solutions in Qatar and FujiFilm from Japan, which supplies medical equipment and information solutions, will form the foundation upon which we will provide organized, systematic population screening across PHCC’s facilities in Qatar. We are therefore honored to have been given this opportunity to be in such a unique position to support Qatar’s vision.”

In a statement issued by Dr. Salha Boujassoum, Co-Chair of the Breast Cancer Tumor Board and the Clinical Lead for the Breast Cancer MDT from HMC, the principal public healthcare provider in the State of Qatar congratulated PHCC on the formal launch of the program.

“The launch of PHCC’s ‘Screen for Life’ program is testimony to the all-out effort of the State of Qatar in ensuring the health and well-being of its citizens and residents and in saving their lives through the early detection of breast and bowel cancer. In acknowledging the impact cancer has on the community, HMC’s healthcare professionals and leaders are committed to working hand-in-hand with all other healthcare providers in Qatar as well as in providing the safest, most effective and compassionate care to every patient in order to continually improve services so that they can best meet patients and their families’ needs,” Dr. Boujassoum said.

The Al Wakra Breast & Bowel Cancer Screening Center located within the premises of Al Wakra Health Centre will begin welcoming patients into the facility from January 2016. This will be followed by the launch of the Mobile Unit as well as the Breast & Bowel Cancer Screening Centers in Leabaib and Rawdat Al Khail. PHCC will be also launching a special Call Center for Breast & Bowel Screening.