Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

Rise in screenings and drop in breast cancer cases detected during Pink Caravan rides in UAE

The number of breast cancer cases detected during the annual campaign has fallen from 17 in 2018 to five this year

There has been a drop in the number of breast cancer cases detected during the Pink Caravan campaign this year.

More cancer survivors are also signing up as volunteers for the popular nationwide ride, which raises awareness of the disease as well as offering free screenings.

Reem Bin Karam, head of the Pink Caravan steering committee, said the disease was diagnosed in only five women this year from 11,077 tests, marking a 70 per cent decline from last year.

Eleven women were detected with breast cancer during the 2019 rides across the country compared to 17 cases two years ago out of more than 7,000 tests each year.

“We have seen a change in mindset and now females make up the majority of our riders,” Ms bin Karam told The National.

The annual breast cancer ride by the Pink Caravan awareness campaign has broken down barriers with thousands more men and women coming in for checks.

Many riders are cancer survivors whose lives were saved after a diagnosis by the medical staff during the ride.

“They are helping spread the word of the importance of early detection,” she said.

Reem Bin Karam, head of Pink Caravan's steering committee. Courtesy: Nama Women Advancement Establishment
Reem Bin Karam, head of Pink Caravan's steering committee. Courtesy: Nama Women Advancement Establishment

“Not only survivors, also young female and male riders, who got married, have come back with their extended families to support us.”

The number of men screened saw a three-fold increase from several hundred in the past years to 2,761 this year.

This is a marked change from the early days of the campaign a decade ago.

Then, some women were afraid a positive diagnosis would be detrimental to their marriage.

Ms bin Karam was shocked at the response of one woman who did not return for treatment after medics detected she had cancer.

“When the team followed up with her, she refused treatment and said she would rather die than let her husband find out about her cancer and remarry,” she said.

In another incident, a man did not get screened because he believed the tests were only for women.

She said each disappointment was an opportunity to convince more people, with the organisers using the Emirati cartoon Fareej to spread their message.

Recent figures from the Ministry of Health and Prevention show 11,205 breast cancer cases registered in the Northern Emirates over the past three years of which 1,003 cases were detected in the first six months of this year.

More than 46,000 women have been screened since 2011 over the last 10 editions of Pink Caravan.

The group covers not just the treatment but also cares for the family of the patient.

“We kind of adopt the whole family of the patient, after prioritising their needs,” she said.

“Should the patient be the breadwinner, we cover not only treatment costs, but other living costs like school fees.”

Expenses during the first year can amount to Dh280,000 on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Initially planned as a three-year campaign the Pink Caravan, organised by Friends of Cancer Patients, has turned into an annual movement.

Hospitals, small businesses and even international brands like Ralph Lauren have come forward to look after patients.

Women have flown from Australia and Germany to take part.

“We also received requests from Germany, Washington and Saudi Arabia to host the Pink Caravan there,” Ms bin Karam said.

“The beauty of Pink Caravan is that it’s an entire community coming together.”

Updated: October 16, 2020 09:50 AM

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