WOMEN IN UAE IGNORE EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF GYNECOLOGIC CANCERS

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Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi expands cancer treatments with new female gynecologic oncologist

Dr. Ricci

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Abdominal bloating, pelvic pain, early satiety/feelings of fullness while eating, and spotting after menopause can be some early signs of gynecologic cancers but are often ignored as minor inconveniences until they advance, says the newly appointed female gynecologic oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health.

Dr Stephanie Ricci, who treated cancer patients for six years at the US-based Cleveland Clinic, has joined the oncology team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi as its first female and US Board Certified gynecologic oncologist. Her experience and expertise focus on diagnosing and treating cancers of the female reproductive system, including uterine, ovarian, vaginal, cervical and vulvar cancers.

“Awareness of gynecologic cancers in the UAE is similarly low to what I saw among women in the United States. Women take some of the warning signs of cancers quite lightly and do not schedule regular appointments with their gynecologist. Most of these cancers are more likely to be cured if they are discovered early,” says Dr. Ricci.

She says women must pay attention to even the slightest change in their body or any irregularities and visit a doctor for a thorough investigation. Common gynecologic cancer signs include pelvic pain or pressure, vaginal bleeding or discharge, itching or burning of the genitals, increased urination, constipation or diarrhea, and bleeding or spotting after menopause. 

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer1, while uterine cancer is the sixth2 and ovarian the eighth3 most common cancer in women worldwide. Family history, age and obesity are important risk factors for gynecologic cancers.

Dr. Ricci says that she has been seeing a lot of patients with advanced disease at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“Women are not being diagnosed early enough because they are referred to different physicians for their symptoms, which delays treatment. There are very few female gynecologic oncologists in the UAE and such cancers can go undetected without the right multidisciplinary expertise. Another important factor contributing to such advanced disease here is that women often stop seeing their gynecologist after they have had children.”

“For women who have reached menopause, it is very important that they see a doctor if they are bleeding again. Patients believe that a little spotting post menopause is not concerning, but this is never normal and can be a sign of endometrial cancer, which begins in the inner lining of the uterus. This cancer is curable if found at an early stage. Once metastatic, the recovery rate drops significantly.”

Dr. Ricci says annual exams with pap smears, investigating issues of pelvic pain, abdominal bloating and abnormal menstruation, and scheduling a mammogram and colonoscopy based on health history and age can help reduce the risk of gynecologic cancers. 

“Your doctor can order further tests, including genetic testing, and recommend a treatment plan with the right diet and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of cancer or prevent it altogether.”

The expert says that treatment for gynecologic cancer has made significant strides in the last decade with most procedures to remove tumors done with minimally invasive techniques.

“Advancements in not only treating but also diagnosing these cancers means that patients have better outcomes and a faster recovery. For example, for patients with endometrial cancer, we can do a minimally invasive laparoscopic hysterectomy, and a sentinel lymph node mapping to determine whether the cancer has spread, and they can go home the same day. The incisions are small and the surgery is completed in less than two hours. Immunotherapy, where we take advantage of a person’s own immune system to help kill cancer cells, is also emerging as a viable treatment option for patients with ovarian, cervical, and endometrial cancer,” Dr. Ricci concludes.

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

About Mubadala Health:

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established in 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), Amana Healthcare, National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Danat Al Emarat, HealthPlus Diabetes & Endocrinology Center, HealthPlus Family Clinics, HealthPlus Fertility, HealthPlus Women’s Health Center, Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi, and a stake in Al Meswak Dental Clinics Group. With a vision to transform the regional healthcare landscape, Mubadala Health sets a new benchmark for the UAE and regional healthcare industry through its state-of-the-art facilities and world-class caregivers who strive to put patients first across its continuum of care. Innovation, research, and education are the foundational pillars of Mubadala Health, supporting the further development of a sustainable healthcare sector in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi and the region.