Dr. Al-Hadrani ” Lymphomous Cancers are the Most Common  Types of Cancer in Yemen” [Archives:1999/25/Interview]

June 21 1999

Cancer is turning out to be a widespread ailment among Yemenis. The reasons for this are many. It has been found that a considerable number of the people afflicted by this disease are qat addicts. In all probability the ad hoc use of poisonous pesticides added to the qat tree has helped to spread the disease. In view of the increasing number of cancer cases, Yemeni doctors have felt it imperative to establish a society to confront this agonizing and often deadly disease.
Dr. Ahmad Mohammed Al-Hadrani is currently the President of the Yemen Cancer Society (YCS). He graduated with distinction from the University of Ain Shams, Cairo . He got his MS from the United Kingdom and his Ph.D from the United States. He is a member and the representative of Yemen in the International Society of Surgery and the International Society of Trauma and Surgical Care, Switzerland. He is currently working as an Associate Professor of Surgery, in the Faculty of Medicine, Sana’a University, and he is the founder and General Supervisor of the Medical Knowledge Journal.
To shed light on the activities and obstacles faced by YCS, Ismail Al-Ghaberi of the Yemen Times met with Dr. Al-Hadrani and filed the following interview with him.
Q: What are the objectives of the YCS?
A: The goals of the YCS are divided into primary and secondary targets.
One of the two primary goals is increasing public awareness about cancer prevention. It is believed now that 1/3 of cancer cases can be prevented. Thus prevention policies have become a priority in several developed countries. However, in Yemen and many other developing countries, this is still is unthinkable. Thanks to preventive measures against cancer in the developed countries, the increase in cancer levels will only be 25%, whereas in the developing countries the increase will be a 100%! Cancer prevention is the leading goal of several cancer societies worldwide, and it is more important for developing countries, because it avoids the high mortality rates and the necessity of expensive treatment. The second goal of the YCS is awareness in the Yemeni population of the early signs and symptoms of cancer. It is now generally agreed that 1/3 of the cancer cases can be detected early and cured by treatment.
In Yemen our preliminary clinical studies have shown that more than 80% of all cancer patients who come to the clinics for the first time are incurable. The importance of early detection can be clarified in the following example:
The 5 year survival rate of patients with early breast cancer is around 90%, compared to 20-30% for patient with advanced breast cancer. Therefore, breast, uterine cervix, oral, skin and stomach cancers should be targeted by early detection through health education.
Other Society goals include Cancer research. Preliminary studies have been conducted, on things such as the prevalence of smoking in Yemen, and the use of pesticides on qat.
Q: What are the difficulties faced by the Yemeni Cancer Society?
A: The YCS has been facing several difficulties. The major difficulty is financial. Would you believe it that government funding support of YCS only amounts to YR 90,000 per year? We have applied for membership in the International Union of Cancer (IUC) in Geneva, a very important organization, because it is concerned with cancer controlling policies worldwide. The IUC welcomed our membership, but we couldn’t afford the annual subscription, which is around US $1,000.
The decision makers, officials, and NGOs should understand the role of the YCS and the long-term significance of this role for every citizen in this country. The YCS is a scientific non-political and non-profit organization. I hope that the government, charity organizations, and businessmen understand the importance of the Society and help the Society to serve the Yemeni people.
Q: What achievements have been realized by YCS in 1999?
A: Two major accomplishments have been realized by the YCS in 1999. The first is the publication of the first issue of the Society Journal ” The Medical Knowledge Journal.” The second is the holding of the first National Conference on the Hazards of Pesticides and Other Chemicals to Man and the Environment.
Q: What are the goals of the Medical Knowledge Journal?
A: The Medical Knowledge Journal is the official Journal of the YCS. It is a journal for anyone from the specialist to the laymen. It presents various medical subjects to the reader in a simple and easily comprehensible way. Although there were some printing mistakes in the first issue, it is still comparable to other Arabic medical journals. The journal aims at increasing public awareness of serious diseases and ailments, particularly cancer.
Q: What is the current state of cancer cases in Yemen and is it possible to give the readers accurate figures on cancer?
A: At present, it is difficult to give any accurate figures on cancer in Yemen, because this would require the institution of national cancer records. Two years ago, we set up a small unit at Al-Jumhuri (the Republican) Hospital in Sana’a, to be the nucleus of such a national registry and we got some help from the the World Health Organization (WHO) in Lyon, France. The unit was provided with a computer for use as a data bank, and a special registration form for recording cancer patients was made, thanks to the assistance of the visiting expert from the WHO, Paula Pissani.
The plan was to start the registration in the City of Sana’a, then expand to the entire Governorate of Sana’a. Then, the Ministry of Health can expand the registry to other cities and provinces. But the necessary staff and the activation of such a unit is primarily the duty of the Ministry of Health.
Therefore, our comments on cancer in Yemen currently depend on two retrospective studies; one was done in Aden and another in Sana’a. The results of these studies indicate that lymphomatic cancers are the most common types of cancers to occur in Yemen. Of these diseases, the most commonly fatal are stomach cancer, cancer of the esophagus, liver cancer and leukemia. Cancer of the skin is common, but it can be cured if it is treated at an early stage.
Cancer awareness is very low in Yemen, and it must improve before we can effectively treat or prevent cancer.