by MainGate Staff
Fall 2021

This past October, AUBMC shared a video on social media titled “The Bread Exam.” Popular Lebanese baker Um Ali stands in a spacious, well-lit kitchen in front of two wrapped pieces of dough molded in the shape of breasts. “Today, I’m going to share my healthiest recipe,” she says. “Look at the dough closely. Make sure that both are similar, same shape, same color.” Um Ali moves her hand in a circular motion around the dough, massaging at intervals. “We shouldn’t see any lumps and no area should feel harder than another.” She then moves her hand in a straight line from the top of the dough mound to the bottom, before pinching the center. “No liquid should come out of it,” she says. Finally, she reminds the viewer that the recipe is only healthy if performed often.

The video is the brainchild of French ad firm McCann, representatives of which reached out to Lebanese Breast Cancer Fund (LBCF) co-founder Mirna Hoballah last year expressing interest in putting together a breast exam campaign aimed at a Lebanese and Arab audience. For its cleverness and subtlety, meant to bypass the conservatism that may act as an obstacle to breast cancer awareness, the ad won the PR Cannes Lions Grand Prix.

The campaign, titled Khabazteh? (Did you bake bread?), is the latest iteration of a long-running breast cancer awareness campaign stretching back to LBCF’s founding in 2011, a time when breast cancer awareness in Lebanon and the wider Arab region was lower. “It used to be that in Lebanon and in most low-income countries—we have statistics and publish data on this—that 60 to 80 percent of cases used to be advanced breast cancer,” says Dr.Nagi El Saghir, LBCF’s other co-founder and AUBMC professor of clinical specialty.

Thanks to the work of organizations like LBCF, which along with AUBMC has helped promote breast cancer awareness through media campaigns and donations of hair and money, those numbers have dropped. Now, 66 percent of breast cancer cases in Lebanon are diagnosed early.

McCann’s campaign builds on more than a decade of LBCF’s and AUBMC’s work, with the sophistication and media chops of a global advertising firm. A second McCann video, also shared on social media, features interviews with women on the streets of Beirut discussing taboos around matters physical and sexual. “We need to break the taboo. We shouldn’t feel ashamed,” one woman says.

“It’s even more relevant with the economic situation in Lebanon as mammograms have become less affordable for women,” Hoballah says.