Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Israel's Arab Society

Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Israel's Arab Society

October 9, 2017

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), an annual international health campaign organized and marked by breast cancer charities all over the world. The campaign raises awareness about the disease, fundraises for medical research, and offers information and support to those affected by it.

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer death among women in Israel, representing one-sixth of cancer deaths in Jewish women, and one-fifth among Arab women. Since 2001, mortality rates have been going down for Arab and Jewish women respectively (with mortality rate of 18.3% among Jewish women in 2011 compared with 21.1% in 2001; and 13.5% of Arab women in 2011 compared with 20.6% in 2001.) Between 1990 and 2001, however, incidence of breast cancer among Arab women nearly doubled and mortality rates from the disease increased by 20%.

Regular screenings and early detection are recognized as the most effective means of reducing mortality rates. Historically, Arab women were less likely to get screened, and thus fewer opportunities for early detection. As efforts to close screening gaps took effect, mortality rates in Arab society have been gradually declining as well.

Today, the Mariam Foundation is the leading Arab organization in Israel working to raise awareness and remove stigmas and fear around speaking about breast cancer in Arab society. Mariam holds educational lectures, roundtables, major events and public awareness campaigns. They also help with funding for medication and treatment in the Arab community and lead volunteer efforts in partnership with most major hospitals in Israel to support cancer patients. In 2012, the Foundation worked with the Friends of the Holy Family Hospital organization a gala, fundraising NIS 250,000 ($65,000) for the purchase of a mammography machine (now located in the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth.)  In the past five years, over 8,000 women have undergone mammography testing through participation in Mariam events and programs. Approximately 300 of these women received early detection.

Indeed, mammography rates in Israel’s Arab society have been steadily rising. According to a Knesset report, as of 2013, screening rates in Arab society reached 70% of women, the same rate as that of Jewish women. An internal Arab report shows lower numbers, only 27.3% percent in 2007 and 41.8% in 2010, but a rise nonetheless.

This year, as part of Israel’s nation-wide Pink October, Mariam will bring its educational campaign to ten different Arab and mixed communities from the center to the north of Israel. On October 18, Mariam will light Israel's Rambam Hospital in pink and hold a public breast cancer awareness conference with Rambam medical experts. On October 19, Mariam will light the US Embassy building in Tel-Aviv, an annual tradition, and conduct roundtables on the disease with representatives from Israel's major hospitals and provide women with references for mammography testing. Mariam's events attract large crowds ranging in size from several hundred to nearly 3,000 participants. 


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