Hundreds of men and women with limited access to proper hospitals, medical insurance or awareness were tested and screened for breast cancer as the Pink Caravan came to a close yesterday.
The 7th Pink Caravan ride, the breast cancer campaign, held its final event at Zayed Sports City in the capital with a seven-kilometre walk to raise awareness of the topic.
The 10-day trek, themed Seven Years For Seven Emirates – an initiative by Friends of Cancer Patients – was launched on March 7 with the aim of travelling across the emirates offering free screenings and raising awareness about the disease by emphasising early detection.
Two additional stops let the campaign reach more people, doctors said.
“We took Pink Caravan to Dibba Al Hisn and Dibba Fujairah for the first time this year and the response was one that was very much needed,” said Dr Sumayia Shahid, a doctor at the Pink Caravan mobile clinic. Fixed clinics were stationed at Abu Dhabi Corniche, Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah, Dubai City Walk, Ajman Corniche, Al Hamra Mall in RAK, Al Khazan Healthcare Clinic in UAQ and at Al Faseel health promotion centre in Fujairah during the campaign.
“I have come across so many cases of women who had very hard findings, very hard lumps, but they do not have access to insurance, good medical facilities and are not aware of the issues,” Dr Sumayia said.
“We have been able to reach out to the Bedouin and people in the suburbs through this campaign, which is very important for women. We were also giving out vouchers for free mammograms, which meant a test that would otherwise cost you Dh1,000 to Dh1,500, was for free,” she said.
In 2012, the country registered 568 cases of breast cancer – five times higher than cervical or colorectal cancer – and, according to Health Authority Abu Dhabi, the disease is the third leading cause of death in the Emirate.
“On an everyday basis, I came across cases that were not normal and we screened thousands of patients, which shows how important regular screening is for men and women,” Dr Sumayia said.
A member of Pink Caravan since its inception seven years ago, Bard Al Jaidi, the head of logistics for the campaign, said that he has seen a change among people through the campaign to freely talk about breast cancer.
“The involvement of people this year, which has been tremendous, shows that people are not shy to speak about breast cancer any more,” Mr Al Jaidi said.
“In the past when you spoke about this, most people in the UAE would hesitate to discuss it, but now the community is open to addressing the challenge of breast cancer, understanding it and are not ashamed of it.
“On one of the days we screened 950 people, which is a new record for us.
“Volunteer numbers are increasing as well. I need only 10 in a day, but more than 100 offer to come help every day,” Mr Al Jaidi said.
Taking part in the 7km Pink Strides walk on the closing day, Palestinian Amal Al Masri, 44, said she was there in memory of Emirati Ameera bin Karam, director of the Pink Caravan awareness group who died when her house caught fire in October last year. “I have been taking part in the Pink Caravan activities because I support the cause and am also here for my friend, Ameera.
“It is under her leadership that so many men and women are benefiting today, so I am doing this for her and all cancer patients worldwide,” she said.
Accompanying Ms Al Masri was her daughter, Carmel Saleh, 14, who said she wanted to do her part to reach out to the youth and spread the message of breast cancer awareness.
“We young people have a stronger outreach to community through social media and talking to our friends and I believe I can do my duty by taking part in Pink Caravan and telling my friends about breast cancer awareness,” she said.