Posted on November 05, 2019

Awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection of the disease has been raised through a community walk at Qatar Foundation.

The event at Oxygen Park in Education City, held as Breast Cancer Awareness Month drew to a close, encouraged people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and highlighted how the risk of breast cancer can be reduced through early screening.

During October, Qatar Foundation (QF) was the venue for an array of breast cancer awareness activities attended by students, faculty members from universities at QF, health experts, families, and participants from across Qatar’s community.These events, organized by QF students with the support of their universities, featured lectures, workshops, and fun and meaningful activities designed to encourage people of all ages to play their part in building a healthier society.

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Speaking about the walk at Education City, Amie Rollins, Director of Health and Wellness at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, a QF partner university, said: “We are delighted to see the scale of awareness-raising, as many families, community members and QF students have taken part in the various activities at Oxygen Park. “The event was also characterized by collaboration between various QF universities, making it more diverse and richer. It is also an opportunity for us to introduce QF’s facilities to the community, and engage our students in these events, which enables them be active citizens in their community."

As well as a walk to promote the benefits of a living healthy lifestyle, the event featured a‘Wall of Words’, where people wrote messages of support to breast cancer patients, and a ‘Pledge Table’which encouragedvisitors to make a lifelong vow to build healthy and supportive relationships. “We have come as students at QF to express our support for breast cancer awareness,” said Noura Al Thani, a second-year student at QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q).“Our goal is to help raise awareness and be part of this campaign.”

Rodolfo Muñoz Cárdenas, a first-year student at GU-Q, said: “The event today highlights how QF looks to engage community members in its activities, and that community participation is at the heart of QF’s vision. “Education City is a unique place to support the goal of spreading awareness about breast cancer." Among those supporting the walk and its surrounding activities were QF Community Development,QF’s partner universities, Sidra Medicine, Qatar University, and theProtection and Social Rehabilitation Center (Aman). Students from QF partner university Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM-Q) who organized a breast cancer awareness event during October said that, as medical students, they frequently interact with patients and have the chance to understand their backgrounds, struggles, and stories.

The students, who are members of the Hematology & Oncology Interest Group at WCM-Q added that, according to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, and that the rate of recovery is higher if the disease is diagnosed early. They said they hope to benefit breast cancer patients in Qatar by contributing to spreading awareness and supporting Qatar Cancer Society through fundraising. Student Aya Yousef, a final-year medical student at WCM-Q, said: “Through this event, we aimed to spread awareness by having guest educators and physicians from different centers in Qatar, as well as student-run educational interactive games that help to debunk common myths about breast cancer.

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“We have also hosted many businesses who helped us raise funds to support QCS’s awareness efforts and patients’ treatments.” The event is the fourth cancer awareness fundraising campaign to be organized by WCM-Q students.These campaigns have reached more than 2,000 peopleand have highlighted the importance of recognizing early cancer signs and having regular check-ups, which both make swift detection much more likely. The students have collaborated with many health institutions in Qatar to bring about the campaigns, including Hamad Medical Corporation, Sidra Medicine, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, Qatar Medical Students Association, as well as WCM-Q.

“Seeing the impact of these campaigns on patients and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback helps students push to contribute more to their society and be a part of the change they want for their futures,” said Aya. “Normalizing the idea of talking about breast cancer helps to reduce the cultural stigma surrounding it”. During October, students at QF partner university Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) also organized a breast cancer awareness event with activities that attracted more than 400 QF students, professors, and community members.

Ghada Al-Qashouti, the main coordinator and a member of VCUarts Qatar’s Student Government Association, said that raising awareness of breast cancer was the aim of the event. “We want to contribute to reducing the impact of this disease by raising awareness of the need for early screening, not only for those over 45, but for those who are younger,” she said. “We should not shy away from talking about this disease out loud and listen to the experiences of those who are suffering and those who have helped women to beat breast cancer, as they share their stories and the reality of living with this disease.”

Those attending the event wore pink, the color that acts as an international symbol of breast cancer awareness, to show their support for women with the disease, and pink ribbons, also a symbol of breast cancer awareness, were handed out for attendees to wear.  Al-Qashoutisaid: “We looked to deliver a meaningful event that enabled us to communicate our awareness message to all members of the community, and to encourage community participation. We are proud of the impact it has made on all those who attended.”