Press Release

Brest Friends celebrate 17 years of giving hope to breast cancer patients in the UAE

Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives dedicated to transforming lives through medical innovation, celebrated the 17th anniversary of longstanding partner Brest Friends acknowledging the impact the home-grown program has contributed to breast cancer awareness in the UAE.

It is estimated that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and it is the second leading cause of death among women. Studies show that when breast cancer is detected and treated early the survival rate is 99 percent. Al Jalila Foundation and Brest Friends work together to raise awareness on early detection.

Brest Friends was established in 2005 as the first breast cancer support group in the UAE, by Dr Houriya Kazim, the UAE’s first female surgeon, with the mission to save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer and providing a platform where patients and survivors can learn, share experiences and offer moral and emotional support to each other which has proven to be instrumental in a woman’s healing process. It is thanks to Dr Houriya’s dedication and foresight, almost 20 years ago, to create a special movement that has impacted thousands of women and inspired the community. What was once a taboo subject has transformed into a national conversation promoting breast cancer awareness nation-wide.

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “Brest Friends is an organisation that is a shining example of what can be accomplished when you nourish one small seed with courage, dedication and passion. Today we see the astonishing growth of that seed as the movement against breast cancer has never been bigger with a wider community reach. It is undeniable that the incredible work of Brest Friends over the last 17 years has saved more lives than we will ever know. We commend Dr Houriya, the Brest Friends Board and the community of breast cancer warriors on their dedication and we could not be more proud of the great impact their work has had on the lives of women.”

Dr Houriya Kazim, Founder and President of Brest Friends, said: “When I started Brest Friends, the only qualifications that I brought to the task were the experience of treating breast cancer patients and the desire to help my patients survive the experience. But here we are – 17 years of giving our members a nurturing, safe and fun environment where women are supported as they go through the difficult breast cancer journey. Cancer is an individual experience; each person has a unique path and we are in awe of all the incredible women who have been a part of the Brest Friends family who have met challenges with such a strength of spirit and grace. It takes my breath away. These women are testament that breast cancer can be beaten and that there is life after cancer.”

The anniversary luncheon was held at Rhodes W1 at Grosvenor House, sponsored by Marriott Business Council, commemorating the positive impact Brest Friends has had on women in the UAE. It was a celebration of 17 years of friendships and an opportunity to honour the brave women who have faced breast cancer with incredible courage, grace and hope.

Pam Wilby, Chair of the UAE Marriott Business Council, said: “My team and I were thrilled to once again host the Brest Friends anniversary and share in the celebrations of such a joyous occasion – it’s so inspiring to be among so many incredible women and to be able to celebrate each of them and their triumphant journey.”

Pam added: “Since 2015 the Marriott Business Council has been supporting Al Jalila Foundation programs through a number of fundraising activities. Our Marriott associates work hard to raise funds throughout the year to support Al Jalila Foundation healthcare programs including the partnership with Brest Friends. I am very proud that that we now have 69 Marriott hotels and 16,000 Marriott associates working passionately to make a difference to the lives of women in the UAE.”

To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Al Jalila Foundation launched the 8th edition of #PINKtober in partnership with Brest Friends. The month-long community campaign unites hundreds of partners – ranging from schools, corporates, hospitality, retailers and government entities – who host pink-themed events across the UAE to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research and patient treatment.