1 June, 2021

“If just one person, woman or man, reads this and changes their lifestyle to help prevent them from getting breast cancer, that will be a positive thing.” That’s the hope of Dr Bana Haddad, Medical Advisor for Breast Cancer UK.

Dr Haddad, a GP in Kent and Clinical Lead for Personalised Care at Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance, said: “I always wanted to be a doctor and if I started again, I would again choose to be a doctor. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

It was her own personal experience of breast cancer that led her to support Breast Cancer UK and help spread the prevention message.

“A few years into my career, I’d started to become really interested in cancer, and two years after that my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was the first time I realised how much the diagnosis and the treatment not only massively affected the patient but the whole family and their surroundings,” she recalls. “I thought, I have to use this experience in a positive way.”

Dr Haddad, who previously worked as a Macmillan GP, realised how important it was for the patient and their relatives to have access to personalised care and support. This led her to establish collaborative working across the sectors to provide better pathways of cancer care.

It was through her job at Cancer Alliance – and the training of other health care professionals about the lifestyle changes people can make to prevent breast cancer – that she began working with Breast Cancer UK earlier this year.

“That’s when I realised that people, especially women, didn’t realise that drinking and being obese are big risk factors in getting breast cancer and lots of other cancers. People’s awareness of this is really low.

“They think of diabetes and lung cancers but not breast cancer. I just want to improve people’s awareness. If you don’t look after yourself, you could very well get cancer. But at least 1 in 4 cases are preventable. So we need to get people to do something now,” she added.

Education is key, and from an early age, believes Dr. Haddad. She added: “This is what we’re missing. We need to educate people about the risk factors and what you can do to prevent yourself from developing cancer.”

And reaching people from an early age is key, she said. “I’m a big believer that they have to start from school. The children listen and then bring it home and tell their parents, their grandparents. Schools teaching the prevention message is key.”

Dr Haddad recognises that these aren’t always easy conversations to have. She remembers how difficult she found it when she first qualified as a GP. She had to talk to patients about being overweight.

“That’s why it’s so great having charities like Breast Cancer UK that we, as GPs, can signpost people to. I’m quite excited about the upcoming launch of their online breast cancer prevention hub. It has everything people need to know about how to prevent it. It’s up to them then,” she added.

Dr Haddad is passionate about spreading the prevention message “because it’s simple, we can prevent this,” she says. “That’s what’s driving me, why not live a better life if it’s possible!”

She hopes by joining the charity she can help spread the prevention message more widely. Especially in communities that are harder to reach. And she stresses the importance of being able to speak to people from all backgrounds about how they can start their prevention journey.

“We know that in poorer communities the disease is often diagnosed later and so is more difficult to treat. Getting to these people and talking in their language, and I don’t mean their actual language, but using the stories of people they can relate to, that are like them, can work really well,” she said.

And what of the next 20 years? “I sadly can’t envisage breast cancer not being here but perhaps we’ll have a genetic test at birth which will say what we’re most susceptible to getting. And that people are living with the fear of getting breast cancer. That would be good!” she concluded.

Dr. Haddad’s final message to people is “take action now, it’s never too late to make those simple changes.”

Find out how you can reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Have you been diagnosed or touched by breast cancer? By sharing your story, you can help people understand the impact a diagnosis has and the importance of prevention. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch here.

It’s never too late to make those simple changes.

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