Dubai: Mammogram machines are still too expensive and in short supply in the UAE, leaving many women at risk of detecting breast cancer late, charges an anti-cancer activist in Sharjah.

Women above the age of 40 are encouraged to undergo a mammogram annually, on top of monthly breast self-examinations. Women under 40 should carry out monthly breast self-examinations and also have an annual check-up with a doctor.

Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, office manager for Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), told Gulf News cost and availability were usually the reasons women cite for not getting a mammogram.

"The problem is we do not have enough mammogram machines. There are mammogram machines at private hospitals, but they are expensive."

She said last year, there was only one mammogram available at a low rate for the public in Sharjah at Al Qasimi Hospital. Now, there are two available after the FOCP donated a digital "state-of-the-art" mammography machine to the Ministry of Health's Mother and Child Health Centre. She has no statistics from other emirates, but said it was a common complaint.

In Abu Dhabi, LifeLine (LL) Hospital reported being bombarded with calls from women who wanted to have mammograms. However, Dr Shamsheer V.P., managing director of the hospital, credited increased awareness rather than lack of equipment for the demand.

Dr Mona Al Kawari, head of the National Women's Project at the Ministry of Health, said breast cancer was the third cause of death among UAE women.

"The statistics show the importance of detecting breast cancer early," she told Gulf News.