Breast cancer care for Palestinian women has been transformed thanks to the help of experts from Dundee University.
Jane Macaskill, a senior lecturer in medicine at the university and a consultant breast surgeon, led a team working with women in the territory, who have a five-year survival rate of just 40%.
The shocking low percentage has been caused by restrictions on movement for both patients and doctors, shortages of essential medicines, and the shortcomings of the health system
The team’s bid to increase the survival rate started at the Breast Cancer Centre at Rafedia Hospital in the West Bank.
Jane and her team worked closely with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) to improve diagnostics, surgery and nursing in the West Bank and Gaza, helping women access higher quality services when they need them most.
Phillipa Whitford MP, who represents Central Ayrshire at Westminster and is a former breast surgeon, has been supporting MAP’s cross-Palestine Breast cancer program for the past five years.
Jane said: “When we first started working with MAP there was no cohesion of services, and a lack of infrastructure that we had to address. There were hospitals and services run by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, NGOs, and private companies, but there was little collaboration between them.
Jane added “One of the things we had to do was map the available expertise and equipment as well as what was needed to make services more equitable, consistent and efficient.
“For example, there might be mammogram or MRI machines in one location, but no one with the skills to work them. We had to find out where human resources were needed as well as putting in place physical infrastructure.”
She concluded: “In the past four years, services have improved immensely, even allowing for the disruption caused by Covid. Education is now taking place at a national level, with the Ministry of Health pushing the message about the importance of early diagnosis, national pathways, and multidisciplinary teams.”
Jane has since returned to her home in Dundee from the West Bank City of Nablus.
More information about MAP can be found at https://www.map.org.uk/.