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‘Cansurvive’ initiative aims to empower cancer patients

A press conference was held yesterday at Cairo’s Fairmont Hotel to announce the official launch of “Cansurvive,” a cancer support group aimed at raising awareness and helping cancer patients both combat and come to terms with their condition.

Dr. Mohsen Mokhtar, Cansurvive chairman and assistant professor of clinical oncology at Cairo University, began the event by noting that the idea for the initiative had originated with patients themselves. Mokhtar specifically emphasized the importance of raising awareness about the importance of early detection, explaining that several kinds of cancer–such as breast and colorectal cancer–were treatable if detected early enough.

Cansurvive already conducted an awareness campaign last March entitled, “Change your Lifestyle,” during which 5000 free screening vouchers were distributed and almost 1000 people were tested. The success of this first campaign, said Mokhtar, “encouraged us to launch more awareness campaigns in the future.”

Dr. Yasser Abdel Qader, professor of oncology at Cairo University and director of the Center for the Treatment of Tumors at Qasr el-Aini University, noted that cooperation between medicine and media played “an indispensable role in raising awareness about the importance of early detection.” Such cooperation, he noted, “could potentially save thousands of lives.”

Abdel Qader went on, however, to chastise the media for portraying an unnecessarily pessimistic–and inaccurate–picture of cancer and cancer sufferers. “Movies tend to depict cancer as the end of the world,” he said. “This negative perception must be changed, since many patients can be cured–especially if the disease is detected in its early stages.”

Cansurvive also aims to support patients by alleviating emotional and financial stress, noted Abdel Qader, “which is no less important than relieving his or her physical pain.”

According to Dr. Nevine Shawky Kamal, oncologist and Cansurvive executive director, the group plans to launch two additional campaigns this year, one focusing specifically on breast cancer and the other on lymphoma.

One of the group’s primary functions is to organize focus groups, the speakers explained, by which oncologists and psychologists hope to help patients overcome the emotional and psychological impact associated with having cancer.

Nashwa Abdallah, cancer survivor and Cansurvive member, spoke about her own experience battling the disease, saying she was proud to have been able to help other patients get through their ordeals.

“From my own experience, I found that strong will and faith are the weapons with which to overcome this dilemma,” Abdallah recalled. “I said to myself, ‘I need to recover in order to return to my family.’”

Cansurvive provides a toll-free hotline, 16197, callers to which will have all their cancer-related inquires answered by a team of experts. “This service has proved to be a great success, with 20,000 calls received during the last period,” noted Mokhtar.

Responding to a question about the efficacy of raising awareness when most Egyptians were unable to afford expensive cancer treatments, Abdel Qader answered: “We try to guide the poor to certain public hospitals and specialized centers where they can receive low-cost treatment instead of private hospitals. Unfortunately, we’re not currently in a position to offer financial support.”    

The press conference was followed by a gala dinner hosted by singer Sobhy Badir and attended by well-known personalities such as actress Yousra, who delivered a speech in support of the initiative.

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