Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi interacts with a young volunteer. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: The 7th Pink Caravan Ride began its 200.2km journey across the country on Tuesday to spread the message of hope that breast cancer can be overcome if detected early.

With the theme ‘7 years … for 7 emirates…”, the caravan will ride and stop at different points in the UAE, reaching the most far-flung areas, to educate the public on how to perform breast self-examination to detect cancer and how to prevent it.

His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, flagged off the lead team of the volunteer equine riders at the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club on Tuesday morning. The riders travelled 16km up to Masafi Hospital to mark the start of their 11-day journey of offering free breast cancer screenings and education.

Shaikh Sultan, speaking on the occasion, said, “The Pink Caravan Ride does not just give a call for breast cancer screenings — it takes awareness, hope and medical expertise from emirate to emirate, making early detection screenings and advice more than accessible to the citizens and residents of the nation. I call out to all women sitting at home to come forward and take a screening test during the PCR campaign. Early detection is one of the best ways of defeating breast cancer.”

He emphasised that the success of the Pink Caravan’s journey should not be measured by the kilometres it has travelled in the past six years, but by the number of detections, free screenings and medical advice provided by brave, giving women completely committed to the nation’s health and safety.

“Everyone watching and listening to this, don’t stay away from the great actions that will be taken during this seventh ride. Its success depends upon your participation and giving,” Shaikh Sultan added.

“We are pleased to see that most people working in the clinics and in the caravan are volunteers. They are giving their time and effort to give others health and safety. Everyone sitting at home should leave what they’re doing and come and be screened because this disease can be treated if detected early,” he said.

Studies show 98 per cent of those with breast cancer can survive if their cancer is detected in its early stages.

Fund launched

During the ceremony, Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of Dr Shaikh Sultan and patron of the Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), the organiser of Pink Caravan, launched a Fund exclusively for treating cancer patients dedicated to Ameera Bin Karam, the former Pink Caravan director who passed away last year.

“Today, we remember Ameera Bin Karam. We dedicate this ride to her and we want to immortalise her memory by launching a Fund for the treatment of cancer patients in her honour. We call on everyone to support this fund and treatment of cancer,” Shaikha Jawaher said.

The FoCP has been assisting 3,719 patients and families since 1999. A day’s care for one cancer patient costs Dh50,000. Raising funds, therefore, for the whole campaign to fund not only cancer patients but also the entire campaign is paramount. Operational costs alone stood at Dh6 million last year.

Over the past six years, Pink Caravan has screened 41,391 patients for breast cancer, equivalent to Dh24 million of medical examinations, check-ups, mammograms and ultrasound tests. Out of the thousands screened, 33 residents turned out to have positive cases of breast cancer, including one male patient.

To help the campaign, donations can be made directly to FoCP’s bank account or individuals may send an SMS ‘PINK’ to 2302 to donate Dh5.

The campaign, led by Reem Bin Karam, Chairperson of Pink Caravan Ride Higher Steering Committee, will also have mobile medical centres across the country to screen men and women along with seven permanent clinics for women in all seven emirates.

Through its volunteer equine riders and medical professionals, the campaign aims to dispel myths about breast cancer and empower men and women by letting them take charge of their health.

Majid Al Suwaidi, a banker who has been a volunteer rider for the past seven years, said he’s doing it again this year to support a very good cause.

Jess Evans, a first-time volunteer equine rider, said: “As we pass by your community, don’t forget to get checked as it’s very important to be screened for breast cancer, not only for you but also for the rest of your family.”