Launch of the 9th Edition of the Pink Caravan Ride started at Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club on 23 FEB 2019. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

As one of the most commonly occurring cancers in women and the second most common cancer globally, breast cancer awareness and care management is a priority for almost every country. Breast cancer topped the number of total cases of cancer (4,707) in the UAE with 1,054 or 22.4 per cent cases in 2018. Reducing the cases of cancer is one of the pillars of the UAE National Agenda. A sterling contribution is being made towards this goal by the Sharjah-based Pink Caravan Ride initiative, now in its eighth edition, with its awareness-raising programmes that include early detection through free screenings.

There are some fundamental truths about breast cancer that can dramatically reduce its incidences: The earlier it is detected, the more positive is the outcome. Every outcome can be bettered through early screening and the greater the awareness on the importance of early screening, the more the numbers of women who will willingly undergo them. What clinches this argument is that early detection, according to experts, leads to survival rates of above 90 per cent.

A significant challenge to achieving high rates of breast cancer detection is the reluctance of women to undergo routine check-ups at the age of 40, and sometimes even earlier if there is a family history of the disease, driven by socio-cultural and psychological stigmas associated with the disease. This sometimes leads women to face a reality that is too late to be remedied.

The Pink Caravan campaign has, since its launch in 2011, addressed every one of these critical aspects in a systematic manner. Its highly effective form as a ride campaign that moves across the country, one emirate per day, is literally bringing to residents a range of invaluable facilities that include fixed and mobile clinics, free screenings and consultations, at prime and remote locations in the country so that no possibility of outreach is left unexplored. Last year, Pink Caravan also pressed into service the first mobile mammography unit in the region, at a cost of Dh15million. It is also spreading the all-important message of early screenings in schools.

Thus far, its efforts have helped educate more than 56,000 UAE citizens and residents on breast cancer, leading to many cases of positive diagnosis coming to light, helping raise the ratio of optimistic outcomes.

The UAE continues to work towards raising awareness on breast cancer and Pink Caravan is playing a significant role in this mission.