10/29/2014 11:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Continuing the Conversation About Breast Cancer Within Saudi Arabia

As we near the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are some universal truths we can take away from the stories of hope, loss and survival we've all heard and shared. We know this disease respects no border, no age, no race, and increasingly no gender. We know that early detection and treatment are keys to saving lives. We know that education and awareness can go a long way toward building a cancer-free future.

We know all this, and yet there are still areas of the world where these truths are struggling to find a foothold. It seems the disease is traveling faster than the knowledge of how to combat it.

But there are beacons of hope, drum beats starting in far corners of the world, people working to change the conversation and create awareness. Nowhere is this more apparent than my home, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia presents a challenging case: nowhere is the need so great and yet nowhere is the subject so complex.


The need for education and awareness is not just urgent, but dire. In a 2012 interview, Dr. Abdul-Rahman Jazieh, MD, MPH, Chair of the Oncology Department at King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, warned that Saudi Arabia has an "ominous future for cancer incidence" and is on track to close the gap with that of the United States within the next two to three decades. This is a staggering and frightening reality.

At the same time the discussion, in either public or private, of cancer, and specifically one that affects primarily women, is sensitive - making that same awareness and education harder to achieve. We must continue to respect tradition while pushing the conversation forward -- a delicate balance to be sure.

But progress has been, and continues to be made. I have been proud to support the Zahra Breast Cancer Association in their efforts to nurture the conversation and spread a message of hope and awareness. Zahra's mission is to increase education surrounding the disease from prevention, to diagnosis, to treatment and recovery in the cities and in every corner of the country. For years, we have been guiding a national conversation about breast cancer with the goal of taking it out of the shadows and showing people how we can join forces to fight it.

It is with great pride that we say that we have trained female radiologists, launched 7 extension offices of Zahra around the country, supported original research within the country, and have as our founder, Dr. Suad bin Amer, who runs the first breast tissue bank in the Middle East at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital.


As we look to the future, we are establishing 2015 as a watershed year in our efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer within Saudi Arabia. The cornerstone will be 10KSA, our campaign to raise domestic awareness and international support for our breast cancer efforts. 10KSA stands for 10,000 in Saudi Arabia and will have two main components.

The first will be an event hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where we will come together for a day of education, fun, conversation and celebration. A highlight of the event will be the formation of a human pink ribbon -- one big enough to hopefully break a Guinness world record -- like we did in 2010.

The second component is a Virtual Ribbon -- an online, real-time reflection of the support being generated around the globe for the 10,000 people standing in Riyadh. The Virtual Ribbon will allow individuals, groups, organizations, etc. to share their support and make 10KSA seen and heard around the world.

10KSA will be a catalyst of conversations, programs and ideas. A meeting of minds to ignite something new, to carry the movement forward on the shoulders not of one organization but of everyone involved.

We have a strong heart but we cannot walk this road alone. Join us at

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. To read all posts in the series, visit here.