Friday, September 30, 2011

In Gaza; do not be a Breast cancer patient!

Anglicord seeks better treatment for Gaza breast cancer victims 29/09/2011 by Mark Brolly

Melbourne-based Anglican relief and development agency Anglicord has launched a campaign to fight breast cancer among women in Gaza.

Women in the Palestinian territory have only a 40% chance of surviving five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer – half that of Australian women. Lack of access to diagnosis and treatment, as well as delays caused by the security obstacles for women seeking care outside Gaza, contribute to the higher mortality rate for women there.
Anglicord screened the premiere of a documentary it produced about the tragedy, Women Die Waiting, as part of the formal launch of its campaign at the Hume Global Learning Centre in Broadmeadows on 27 September.
The Federal Labor Member for Calwell, Ms Maria Vamvakinou, launched the campaign, saying she had lived in great fear of breast cancer as her mother had died from it many years ago.
Ms Vamvakinou, who co-chairs the parliamentary Breast Cancer Network, said treatment of the illness “is really a matter of time”.
“The women in Gaza are powerless, they are completely and utterly powerless to help their families and to help themselves when they become ill,” she said.
Anglicord’s CEO, Ms Misha Coleman, who described her own experience of waiting for treatment for breast cancer, said she knew now that she had waited no time at all compared with women in Gaza.
“When you work in the Gaza Strip, there’ a lot of things to get upset about – kids with disfiguring injuries from the various conflicts and sewerage running raw through the camps and onto the beaches because there’s no fuel for the treatment plants,” Ms Coleman said.
“But when you meet women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, and you know and she knows that treatment is available just on the other side of that wall, and you know that she’s pretty unlikely to get that treatment , in time to save her life, it makes you weep.”
Ms Coleman said the “nightmarish permit system” imposed on Gaza residents by the Israelis contributed to women being diagnosed or treated too late to be saved.
“The permit system is designed to give everyone who wants to go in and out the maximum amount of irritation – whether it’s kids and adults with cancer who need to get out to get treatment, or doctors who are trying to get into Gaza, the system is designed not to work.
“Women in Gaza wait for travel approval from doctors in the government hospitals, they wait for approval from the Treatment Abroad System, they wait for a financial assessment, which they need before they’re allowed to travel and then they have to wait for approval from the Israeli Defence Force.

“This process can take up to six months, but some women never get these approvals at all, so they die waiting.”

Ms Coleman acknowledged the late Janet Reid, from Melbourne, whose generous donation had funded the first six months of the program in the Gaza Strip. Since 1 July this year, 443 women had been screened and more than 30% of those women needed further investigation or treatment.
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