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CommunityHealthNew research looking at breast cancer in Emirati women

Emirati breast cancer patients appear to be a decade younger than the Western population and present with a later stage of disease, according to the lead investigator of three studies underway at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Speaking to LiveHealthy recently, Dr Stephen R. Grobmyer, chair of the Oncology Institute at Cleveland Clinic, part of Mubadala Health, said doctors here have noticed a pattern among women – and suspect a genetic mutation.  “Emirati women are getting...
Asma Ali ZainOctober 26, 20218 min
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Breast Cancer AwarenessImage courtesy Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Emirati breast cancer patients appear to be a decade younger than the Western population and present with a later stage of disease, according to the lead investigator of three studies underway at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Speaking to LiveHealthy recently, Dr Stephen R. Grobmyer, chair of the Oncology Institute at Cleveland Clinic, part of Mubadala Health, said doctors here have noticed a pattern among women – and suspect a genetic mutation. 

“Emirati women are getting the disease in their 40s, which is almost a decade earlier than women in the West, who have it at an average age of 50,” he said.

He also said the disease is more advanced in Emirati patients by the time it is diagnosed.

“What I have observed from data that we are working on in these studies, the size of tumors is larger in Emirati women as compared to those of the West,” he added.

The studies aim to offer insights on the awareness, genetic profile and demographics of Emirati women with breast cancer, which can have a significant impact on the detection and treatment of the disease. 

Initiated in September, the three studies are being led by the Oncology Institute’s multidisciplinary team and will rely on voluntary participation as well as retrospective data collected from hospital records over the last five years. These studies will gather specific data that will enable tailored care and targeted awareness programs for UAE nationals. 

“These studies will give us an important starting point to understand how breast cancer affects Emirati women, what are the unique characteristics and risk factors of the disease in the UAE population, and the level of knowledge about family and personal health history among patients. This approach will not only enable us to personalize care for our patients, but has the potential to inform public health policy and protocols that benefit the population,” added Dr Grobmyer. 

The first study on breast cancer health awareness and genetics among Emirati women will provide essential baseline knowledge about breast health history and seek new information about the spectrum of genetic mutations among patients with breast cancer. 

In one part of the study, 100 women having a screening mammography done at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi will be surveyed to understand their breast health literacy. Another 50 newly diagnosed Emirati breast cancer patients will be invited to take a genetic panel testing to determine the rate and spectrum of genetic mutations among this population. 

The research is estimated to be concluded in 2022.

“We’ve known for a long time that family history is an important part of a woman understanding her risk of breast cancer,” says Dr Grobmyer. “The reason is that breast and ovarian cancer has been found in multiple generations of certain families. If a patient knows her family and personal health history, there are several things we can do to help her and her family members.

“This strategy would include extensive genetic testing, increased frequency of imaging, and prescribing hormonal medications to reduce her apparent risk. However, if a woman does not have that knowledge, it is hard for us to help her make an informed decision on the best treatment plan.”

He continued: “The study will also give a good idea about the extent of the genetic mutations causing the cancer.”

The second study will look at the demographics and tumor characteristics of breast cancer among Emirati patients treated or evaluated at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi from May 2015 until June 2021. 

“We are seeing a larger percentage of young Emirati patients with breast cancer at our clinic. This contrasts with the age at which women in the US are diagnosed with the disease. We will assess the age at which these patients developed breast cancer, and the types of cancer, whether invasive or non-invasive, that are more common.”

The final study will evaluate the hospital’s time to treatment initiation among cancer patients treated or evaluated at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi from January 2018 until January 2020. 

“We hope to raise awareness through these studies and help authorities formulate policies to help patients,” he said.

Asma Ali Zain

Asma Ali Zain is a Dubai based journalist with a field experience of 19 years. She has written extensively on a range of topics and key issues in the region and beyond but her areas of expertise are health, wellbeing and lifestyle writings. She loves tea, cats and sunsets.

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