BEIRUT: Lebanese pop singer Elissa surprised fans this week by revealing in a new music video that she had overcome breast cancer, raising awareness of a disease campaigners say can be a taboo topic of discussion in Lebanon.
"Early detection of breast cancer can save your life. Don't ignore it, face it," 46-year-old Elissa wrote at the end of her video 'To all who love me', released on Tuesday.
Elissar Khoury, who performs under the name Elissa, is one of the best known and highest-selling female artists in the Arabic-speaking world, with 13.3 million followers on Twitter.
Elissa revealed in her video that she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in December. Interspersed with glittering dance scenes, the video shows her going under a medical scanner and lying in hospital beds.
It also includes footage of her collapsing on stage in February while performing in Dubai.
"I think there isn't enough awareness in our Arab region about this. Elissa found out because she was educated enough ... and she does her yearly check ups," said video director Angy Jammal.
Lebanese gynaecologist and member of the National Breast Cancer Campaign, Faysal el-Kak, welcomed Elissa putting breast cancer in the spotlight.
"This is a very bold and progressive move," he said, hoping increased awareness will help more people detect the early signs of cancer and seek out treatment.
"Women associate breasts with their identity as female and they think that breast cancer diagnosis would affect that. (We should) break this taboo and change this perception: early detection saves lives and saves their femininity," el-Kak said.
A day after Elissa's video hit the internet, in neighbouring Syria, first lady Asma al-Assad, 42, also said she had started treatment for early stage breast cancer.
A photo published by Syrian state media showed her hooked up to a drip smiling and sitting next to her husband President Bashar al-Assad.
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Susan Fenton)