View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Overcoming Taboos about Breast Cancer in UAE and Middle East

CNN, in this week’s varied package of ‘Inside the Middle East’, devotes two segments to the issue of breast cancer in this Breast Cancer Awareness month.

No Mammogram No Insurance
Stan Grant interviews Dr Patricia Snozyk, Consultant in Family Medicine with the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, to discuss why 64% of women in the Middle East present themselves to the doctor when their cancer is at the latter stages, which significantly reduces the possibility of cure.

Dr Patricia highlights the various aspects of the UAE government’s initiative to highlight breast cancer awareness including a regulation that women over 40 seeking or renewing their health insurance cover must undergo a mammogram before the insurance is granted.

Innovative Film Gives New Perspective
CNN journalist, Paula Hancocks introduces a creative approach in the Middle East to highlighting breast cancer awareness.

The death of a Palestinian woman in 2004 has inspired filmmakers to produce an innovative animated film entitled ‘Fatenah’ to raise the sensitive subject in the Palestinian territories.

The heart-wrenching tale follows Fatenah's pain and humiliation as she struggles to leave Gaza for treatment after finding few Palestinian doctors willing to help.

At first, one doctor suggests she loosen her bra, while another says her condition will probably go away once she marries. It takes six months for Palestinian doctors to treat her concerns seriously and diagnose her with breast cancer.

The film's executive producer Saed Andoni said it was a gamble telling such a tragic story using animation. But he believes that bet has paid off.

“I think the animation has softened the harshness of the topic,” he said. “Breast cancer and illness and death and Gaza and the siege, it's all heavy stuff, it's all harsh stuff. Put it in an animation style, give it a new dimension, give it a new perspective.”

At a screening in the West Bank city of Ramallah, audience members wept after hearing Fatenah's story, saying they related to her plight.

The woman's father said he cried when he watched it. “It's a very human story and if it can touch the real family, it is a great moment,” Andoni said.

Discussing Taboos & Watch Some of the New Film 'Fatenah'

Breast Cancer Awareness Taboos, CNN Video, 8 October 2009.

Paula Hancocks, Animation Confronts Gaza Breast Cancer Taboo, Inside the Middle East, 7 October 2009.

CNN’s Stan Grant Tours the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and F1 Race Track in Abu Dhabi, Experiencing the Emirates, 10 October 2009.

Other Stories and Related Sites
BMW Oracle Objection to RAK More About Light Winds than Iranian Dangers, America’s Cup in the UAE, 9 October 2009.

UAE’s Gulf News Web Site Gets a Makeover, Experiencing the Emirates, 11 October 2009.

Have You Seen the New ‘Banana’ at Fujairah UAE? Fujairah in Focus, 10 October 2009.

Hugh MacLeod on the Key Element in the Best Stories, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 8 October 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: A still from ‘Fatenah’, the first commercial animation to come out of the Palestinian Territories (Image courtesy of DAR Film Productions at the above link).