Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Can learning how to bake bread save lives?

The recipe to fight breast cancer exists, it’s called the “Bread Exam“.

On October  6th, NGOs, doctors and influencers,  all published a bread recipe video, asking a simple question “Have you baked bread?”. At first glance, this video looks like any other bread recipe, but it actually offers a double reading: the gestures used to prepare the dough are the same as those used for a breast self-exam. The Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation and the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) have called upon popular traditional baker Um Ali to perform these gestures and encourage women to follow them to perform a breast self-exam.



When taboos prevent from breast cancer early detection

Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers amongst Lebanese women.
It represents 22% of all cancer cases in the country and constitutes 35% of all women’s cancer. Studies prove that preventive screening and self-testing can help reduce this figure: 90% of cancer cases can be cured if it’s detected early.
But in Lebanon, traditions and cultural taboos related to intimate body parts prevent women from not only going to the doctor’s, but also from talking about the subject or performing self-examinations. “In our education, it was very taboo to discuss the body and very intimate feminine subjects.explains Danielle Rizkallah, film director.

The Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation and AUBMC decided to take action by creating The Bread Exam.


A traditional bread recipe to help save lives

The idea was to transform a tradition into an educational tool to overcome taboos. “Since many households in Lebanon bake their own bread and are interested in this subject, we decided to use it as a euphemism and talk to women about baking bread, instead of talking about breasts, self-examination or cancer.”, stated Mirna Hobballah vice-president of the Lebanese Breast Cancer foundation.


The bread recipe video was first released at the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month, without any mention of the initiative behind it. Doctors, survivors and influencers shared the recipe, helping them get the gestures out there, while avoiding any taboo. After being trained by a gynecologist, Um Ali performs these three life-saving gestures while respecting our culture and women’s intimacy.

We worked closely with Um Ali and with Ghina Ghaziri, gynecologist at AUBMC, so that all the gestures that she performs in the video tutorial are medically accurate. In that sense, the video can better serve as a timeless self-exam tutorial that can help detect breast cancer.” stated Abir Salam, Communication Manager at AUBMC.


To make sure that our message widely reaches women with limited access to online platforms, the bread exam self-check procedure were printed on packs of flour in supermarkets, as well on bread wrappers in shops and markets in Lebanon’s rural areas.


By shaping a taboo into a tradition, the recipe gives women the possibility to talk about breast cancer without mentioning it. Only one question remains: ‘‘have you baked bread this month?’’. #KHABAZTE


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