The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 23, 2007

Mrs. Bush's Remarks on the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Partnership on Breast Cancer Awareness
King Fahd Medical City
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

2:10 P.M. (Local)

MRS. BUSH:  Thank you very much, Minister.  Thanks to each of you today for joining us.  I especially want to thank Your Royal Highness.  Thank you very much.  Your joining us here is very important to me, and I appreciate it very much.

Thank you for your great humanitarian work as President of the Saudi Cancer Society and the Saudi Red Crescent Society; and now through your attention to women's health.  Thank you so much.

I'd like to also acknowledge Dr. Abdullah Al Amro, Director of the Board of the Saudi Cancer Society, CEO of the King Fahd Medical Center Riyadh.  Dr. Kendra Woods -- Kendra, thank you so much for what you just said.  It was a very, very lovely speech, and you said in many ways what I also want to say, which is how important this collaboration is between our two countries, our two medical research teams, to see what we can discover together that can help both of our countries and the world.

Hala Moddelmog, the CEO of Susan G. Komen, thank you very much for joining us; Ambassador Brinker.  Doctors, nurses, researchers, government officials, community leaders, survivors, distinguished guests -- thank you for the very warm welcome to Saudi Arabia.

I'm delighted to be in Riyadh today to talk about how we can work together to save women's lives -- by raising women's awareness of breast cancer.

Over the next quarter-century, an estimated 25 million women around the world will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Breast cancer does not respect national boundaries, which is why people from every country must share their knowledge, resources and experience to protect women from this disease.

Americans have a national experience with breast cancer advocacy and awareness.  Twenty-five years ago in the United States, women were too embarrassed and too fearful to talk about breast cancer.  Women didn't know to get regular mammograms or to do breast self-exams -- and so most breast cancer cases were diagnosed too late for successful treatment.

A lot has changed in 25 years.  Today people do talk about breast cancer -- often, to tell stories of triumph.  In 1982, my friend Nancy Brinker started the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of her sister Susan, who had died of breast cancer.  Because of the Komen Foundation's work to raise women's awareness, everyone in the United States now knows what the pink ribbon stands for.  Every year, in 114 cities around the world, more than a million runners join in the Race for the Cure.

Two former First Ladies of the United States -- Betty Ford, the wife of President Gerald Ford, and Nancy Reagan, the wife of President Ronald Reagan -- both made their bouts with breast cancer public.  Their willingness to speak out gave American women the courage to discuss their own breast cancer.  These First Ladies -- and the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- have helped to place breast cancer advocacy at the forefront of American life.  Today in the United States, when breast cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. 

As in the United States, people in the Middle East -- people like you -- are speaking up to save women's lives from the disease.  The American people are proud to stand with you.  We stand with women like Dr. Samia Alamoodi, who diagnosed her own advanced breast cancer last year.  Dr. Alamoodi was the first Saudi to break the silence and share her personal experience with breast cancer.  She's worked hard to increase women's awareness and improve medical care, even during her own treatment.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.) 

Last year at the United States State Department, I helped launch the U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research.  This program joins medical communities in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates with the medical expertise of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  This partnership will benefit from the educational resources of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the strong commitment of the United States State Department.

Through the partnership, these institutions will initiate awareness campaigns and share discoveries and data that can lead to world-class research.  The cure for breast cancer can come from a researcher in Washington or a young doctor in Riyadh.  Wherever the cure is discovered, it will help women in the Middle East and the United States survive their bouts with breast cancer.

The seeds of this historic partnership were planted right here in Saudi Arabia.  Two years ago, in Qassim, a representative from the U.S. State Department met with members of the King Abdul Aziz Women's Association.  The association's Breast Cancer Awareness program had reached more than 1,200 women and raised enough money to purchase a mobile mammogram machine. 

As they talked about the program's success, all of the women were struck by the similarities between the King Abdul Aziz community awareness campaign and breast cancer initiatives in the United States -- like the Komen Foundation's.  The women began to plan for a real exchange of breast cancer resources and discoveries between the United States and the Middle East.

Today I'm delighted to launch the U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research here in its birthplace:  Saudi Arabia.  Through this partnership, the Saudi Cancer Society will join with the Komen Foundation to conduct a comprehensive breast cancer education program.  Saudi Arabia's medical expertise will be advanced through the collaboration between King Fahd Medical City and M.D. Anderson -- coordinated by Middle East Partnership Initiative, a project of the U.S. Department of State.

My visit in Saudi Arabia gives me a chance to highlight projects that will be supported by this partnership.  I've just come from the Abdullatif Cancer Screening Center here in Riyadh, which is the very first breast cancer screening facility in Saudi Arabia.  Tomorrow in Jeddah, I'll meet with Saudi survivors and hear about their decisions to speak openly about their disease. Tonight, I'll meet with His Majesty King Abdullah to talk about the partnership's work to overcome breast cancer.  And in just a few days, the breast cancer partnership will come to the United States. 

Through the International Visitors Leadership Program, 19 women from the Middle East will travel to the United States, where they'll share ideas with their American counterparts on ways to expand breast cancer research and promote early diagnosis.  Two of these women, Fatima and Loulwah, are here today.

By confronting the challenge of breast cancer together, the U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research will help build lasting friendships between Saudis and Americans.  Most important, this partnership will give hope to women across the Middle East -- women like Fadia Altaweel.  Fadia is a 36-year-old TV host on Saudi Channel 1 -- and a breast cancer survivor.  In 2003, Fadia found an olive-sized lump in her breast.  Although she knew something was wrong, she waited a month to seek medical advice because she didn't want to distract from her sister's wedding.  After the wedding, Fadia went to the doctor.  Her lump had grown to the size of an egg.  Fadia had stage 3 breast cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes.

She underwent a lumpectomy and then began a difficult 18-month course of chemotherapy at King Faisal Hospital here in Riyadh.  At first, she resisted the treatment, concerned about its effect on her appearance.  But her 15-year-old son Mohammed knew better.  He reminded his mother that her family needed her, and he cheered her on in her first against breast cancer.

Fadia's mother and two sisters accompanied her to her treatments.  And while Fadia's husband initially had a hard time dealing with her diagnosis, he eventually became one of her greatest sources of love and strength.

Fadia also relied on her friends, especially the support group of 10 Saudi women who were all dealing with their own breast cancer.  The group's bonds remain strong today, even though six of these women have died of the disease.

Fadia's experience -- and the loss of her friends -- has inspired her to speak out.  For the first time, she's telling her story to Saudi women in the hope that they will perform breast self-exams and seek regular cancer screenings.

Fadia still participates in breast cancer support groups, and makes sure other women learn about the importance of early diagnosis.  She's here today.  (Applause.) 

Through the U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research, women like Fadia can find the support and the treatment and the courage and the hope to live with breast cancer.  Women can benefit from the Komen Foundation's message:  that regular mammograms and self-exams lead to early detection, which is the closest thing we have to a cure.

Thank you for supporting these women and for inspiring all of us through your commitment to saving women's lives.

Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

END           2:22 P.M. (Local)

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