Free breast cancer screenings across UAE extended

Organisers of this month's Pink Caravan horseback ride across the UAE say free screenings for breast cancer will continue to be offered after the event.

A mammography mobile unit is travelling around the emirates to detect breast cancer among men and women. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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SHARJAH // Organisers of this month's Pink Caravan horseback ride across the UAE say free screenings for breast cancer will continue to be offered after the event.
Since 2011, 28,949 people have had free scans at 410 mobile units as part of the annual event.
Ameera BinKaram, founding member of the Friends of Cancer Patients charity that organises the Pink Caravan, said details of screenings would be announced when the ride reached Abu Dhabi on its final leg.
It is scheduled to arrive in the capital on March 25.
Ms BinKaram hoped more people would have regular mammograms under the extended programme.
"The new landmark initiative will empower us to be actively present in the different cities and parts of the country throughout the year," she said.
Early detection of breast cancer is crucial in improving the chances of recovery, health professionals say.
Mammograms cost about Dh650 but if an ultrasound is required that can jump to Dh1,200.
Daman, the national health insurance company, covers breast-cancer screenings for women 35 and older, but tests are not covered under its basic Abu Dhabi plan.
With Dubai's mandatory insurance scheme, diagnostic tests and radiology services demand 20 per cent of the costs are paid by the insured person.
Now in its fifth year, this is the first time that Friends of Cancer Patients will be offering further free screenings once the 10-day caravan tour has ended on March 26.
About 150 riders travel 940 kilometres across the seven emirates, with lectures and presentations delivered at 84 schools along the way. Three hundred volunteers are also involved.
"In addition to providing the necessary medical and psychological care for patients with breast cancer, we need to uphold a united message for spreading awareness about cancer through traditional means such as lectures, educational programmes, events, media and social networking sites," Ms BinKaram said.
The charity provides intensive support and treatment for 30 breast cancer patients a year, at a total cost of Dh7.5 million.
Doctors, nurses and technicians accompanying the ride will offer medical screenings to hundreds. Of those already screened, 6,531 have been men.
They will also answer people's queries about breast cancer, including how to do self-examination, methods of detection and what to do in case of a positive diagnosis.
The head of the Pink Caravan's medical committee, Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, said free screenings after the event would be a first for the region.
"If found at the early stage, 98 per cent of women will be completely cured," Dr Al Madhi said.
Breast cancer is the most common type affecting women worldwide. About 1.1 million women across the world are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and 410,000 of them die.
"The annual Pink Caravan Ride has captured the attention of all community sectors," said Liz de Jong, project manager at Friends of Cancer Patients.
"The awareness of breast cancer and the need for early detection and regular screenings must not stop because it is a national, community and humanitarian responsibility. All institutions and individuals should share this responsibility."
Mobile clinics will be available from 7am to 9pm in selected locations in each emirate. The ride starts at the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club at 12.45pm next Monday.
For more information, visit www.pinkcaravan.ae.
nwebster@thenational.ae