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Breaking the Silence on Breast Cancer in Saudi Arabia

03 May 2011
Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi seated at desk (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi

Breast cancer survivor Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi champions awareness of and treatment for the disease in Saudi Arabia. In 2007, the U.S. secretary of state recognized Al-Amoudi’s work with the International Women of Courage Award.

We asked several of the 46 women from 35 countries who have won the award about their recent work. This is the second response, made in April 2011.

Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2006. This month — April 2011 — I finished five years [cancer-free], so medically speaking I am a survivor, although I considered myself a survivor since day one when I managed to absorb the sentence “You have breast cancer.”

Since then my mission in life [is to work] so no woman will suffer the way I did. I feel grateful to the generous contribution of the renowned businessman and philanthropist [and cousin] Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi, who believed in my work. Through his donation I managed to start the scientific chair for breast cancer research, and through his fund, I managed to establish the first center of excellence in breast cancer in the region.

Women in my country have to believe in their health rights, which are basic human rights. This starts by empowering women with knowledge and more awareness and advocating for these health rights and targeting the young generation, as they are the real change.

It is amazing to see how much progress has been made in different parts of the country. [Programs] like the “Pink Eastern Province Campaign” by the Saudi Cancer Foundation show that there is a change in attitude and willingness to be more open on this sensitive issue. The health care provider sector shows increasing numbers of activities and appreciation for the importance of their role in promoting screening. All this is reflected in the perception of the community toward the importance of screening as a tool that saves lives, and it helps in overcoming cultural barriers to screening.

Winning the Women of Courage Award was a great wake-up call that had a great impact on recognizing the importance of the issue of breast cancer in Saudi Arabia. It … showed how important it is to break the silence toward an issue that is considered a taboo in our society.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)