Thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder characterised by abnormal haemoglobin production, will be the focus of a public awareness campaign at the National Centre for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) next week. Dr Ussama Al Homsi, Chairman of Medical Oncology and Haematology said the aim of the campaign is to highlight the significance of premarital screening for genetic blood disorders like thalassemia and the importance of blood donation in ensuring a safe blood supply to care for patients with thalassemia.

Dr Al Homsi said:

Thalassemia is an inherited disorder affecting the blood cells resulting in the production of either no or too little haemoglobin, which is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. The lack of haemoglobin results in reduced oxygen supply to every cell in the body. Thalassemia is also known as Mediterranean anaemia as it mainly affects people living in the Mediterranean region.

At HMC, we offer a full range of services to care for all patients, including those with thalassemia. Experts at our Oncology and Haematology Department focus on diagnosing and treating haematological (blood) malignancies as well as other blood disorders. We work collaboratively with our colleagues and partners to ensure our patients receive the right care, at the right time. We strive to achieve clinical excellence in all aspects of care.’

HMC National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR)
Dr Ussama Al Homsi

As part of planned activities, the haematology care team at NCCCR, in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Patient and Family Education Department, will raise awareness of the causes and symptoms of the disorder as well as the treatment options available at HMC.

Dr Mohammed Yassin, Consultant in the Hematology Department at NCCCR, said:

Our awareness activities focus on simple steps that can be implemented to reduce the condition’s potentially devastating effects and improve the quality of life for thalassemia patients. One of our top priorities is to ensure people are aware of thalassemia and are able to recognise its symptoms as early as possible. Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that can’t be prevented. However, premarital testing remains an effective tool to determine how severe it may be and to decide on the best treatment options available.’

There are four main types of thalassemia; alpha, beta, delta, and a combination of the three. Dr Yassin says the impact of thalassemia can range from mild to severe and life-threatening. He says mild forms of the condition often require no medical treatment but patients with a more severe form of thalassemia will require ongoing treatment. Patients with beta-thalassemia require frequent blood transfusions.

HMC National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR)
Dr Mohammed Yassin

Symptoms of thalassemia can include fatigue, weakness, pale or yellowish skin, facial bone deformities, slow growth, abdominal swelling, and dark urine. Dr Yassin said raising awareness about the disorder and its causes, as well as the role of a healthy diet and exercise in managing the condition, will be part of the planned public awareness activities.

Khadra Yassin, Advanced Clinical Nurse Specialist, says public awareness campaigns and patient education, especially for couples who may be at high-risk for having a child with the condition, are an important part of helping manage thalassemia and its complications.

HMC National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR)
Khadra Yassin

Yassin said:

There is a need to raise awareness of the condition’s symptoms and to provide more health education programs for the public and genetic counselling for high-risk couples. Everyone should learn about the causes and symptoms of thalassemia and take necessary precautions, including adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and undertaking premarital screening tests.’

Join the thalassemia care team at NCCCR on 10 April between 9 am to 1 pm at the hospital’s main entrance. For more information on thalassemia and planned awareness events, follow HMC’s social media channels: Facebook/hamadmedicalcorporation; Twitter/@HMC_Hamad; and Instagram/ HMC_Qatar.