190206 pink caravan 2019
Over the past seven years, the Pink Caravan Ride has offered free early-detection screenings to 48,873 people, Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Sharjah: Women tested positive for breast cancer in the upcoming ‘Pink Caravan Ride’ will for the first time be administered genetic testing to determine the right treatment, it was announced on Wednesday.

Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, director-general of Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) and head of the Pink Caravan Ride medical and awareness committee, said: “We have precision medicine and personalised medicine now and lots of new medication, not the old chemotherapy, that is directed to the woman’s genetic make-up. This genetic testing is a whole panel for positive breast cancer cases to make sure they are put on the right treatment.”

Her comments came at a press conference to announce details of the ninth annual Pink Caravan Ride, which takes place from February 23 to March 1. As always, women (and some men) volunteering in the campaign will ride horses in each emirate in a caravan that will include free screening and awareness for breast cancer.

The new genetic testing feature has been added to the campaign owing to the 15 positive cases of breast cancer that were detected by the Ride last year — the highest number in a single edition.

Early detection

Over the past seven years, the PCR campaign has offered free early-detection screenings to 48,873 people of different nationalities and ages, including 9,643 men.

Sharjah-based FoCP, which supports the early detection of cancer, organises the ride, which this year involves more than 150 riders.

Another improvement this edition is the introduction of a mini mobile clinic on the ride equine route. There will be awareness lectures by medical experts, self-examination workshops, as well as preliminary manual check-ups to support the services that will be offered by medical teams dedicated to each emirate.

Also attending Wednesday’s press conference were Reem BinKaram, Head of the Pink Caravan’s Higher Organising Committee; Badr Al Juaidi, Manager of the Pink Caravan Ride; Mohammad Hassan Khalaf, General Manager of Sharjah Broadcasting Authority; and Jasem Al Beloushi, Head of Organisational Excellence, Sharjah Islamic Bank.

BinKaram said: “Eight years ago when we launched PCR, all we wanted to do was spread awareness about the importance of regular screenings and early detection. We were a bit wary of the way our campaign would be received — horses on the road, rallying support to create breast cancer awareness; a taboo topic we would generally push under the carpet.”

She added: “Today, the ride has become a nationwide annual celebration of hope, health and awareness, and its success stories have spread in the region and far beyond. People wait to join our campaign every year. I extend a ‘pink thank you’ for the efforts you all have put in — our trusted partners, sponsors, volunteers and supporters who have brought us to the position we stand at today. More than 16,000 mammograms have been delivered in the past eight years, and more than 1,400 riders and volunteers have stressed the importance of early detection in all seven emirates.”

In addition to the mini mobile van trailing the ride, there will be other mobile and fixed clinics that will be operating at more than 30 locations nationwide.

BinKaram said: “All these advancements go back to the encouraging and consistent efforts of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah; and his wife Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Founder and Royal Patron of FoCP, to whom we will forever be grateful.”

Riding into town

Day ‘Zero’ — Sharjah and Dubai

Medical clinics will start operating in two venues, Sharjah and Dubai, one day before the official start. Free medical screenings exclusively to women at the Sahara Centre, and testing facilities for both female and male walk-ins at the Sharjah National Park. In Dubai, the clinic will operate out of St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Oud Metha.

Day 1: Sharjah.

The ride will flag off at 10am, February 23, from the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club

Day 2 will be for Ajman, Day 3 — Dubai, Day 4 — Umm Al Quwain, Day 5 — Fujairah (covering Dibba and Khorfakkan), Day 6 — Ras Al Khaimah

Day 7 — Abu Dhabi

Staying true to PCR tradition, the final day of this breast cancer awareness ride, on Friday, March 1, will be spent in Abu Dhabi. The ride will kick off at 10am from Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque, heading to Health Point Hospital and finally stop at Louvre Abu Dhabi at 4.30pm.