A doctor who lives in Harrow has visited Iraq to help set up the country’s first bowel cancer screening programme which will help save thousands of lives.
Dr Laith Al-Rubaiy, a gastroenterology consultant from St Mark’s Hospital, returned to his hometown of Basra after the hospital won a competitive grant from the British Society of Gastroenterology to share his expertise.
It is Dr Al-Rubaiy’s fourth visit to Iraq in recent years where he has previously worked alongside his brother – a GP in Basra – running a mobile health clinic.
The programme will initially focus on Basra city centre in a country where no previous screening means patients present late with cancer dramatically reducing their chance of survival.
Dr Al Rubaiy said: “The biggest challenge we face is a lack of public understanding about bowel cancer and cultural taboos, especially among women.
“There is a renewed sense of optimism in the country after several decades of conflict and there is momentum to start cancer screening programmes which we are keen to support.”
The aim of this project is train a small group of doctors and nurses to deliver the bowel cancer screening programme based on the UK model
The project will also provide public workshops and seminars to increase awareness of risk factors, red flag symptoms and the importance of early detection and screening for colorectal cancer.
Dr Al Rubaiy’s initial visit included meeting with public health officials and doctors to discuss preventative health behaviour, early detection and screening, and referral for treatment in one of two designated health centres.
The screening programme will invite adults aged 55 years and over to do a stool test to look for any trace of blood in the stool which will require further investigation to rule out bowel cancer.