His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi with the riders and officials Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Coinciding with World Cancer Day (February 4), the 11th edition of the Pink Caravan Ride (PCR) started from Al Heera Beach in Sharjah to raise awareness and offer free check ups across the UAE.

His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the event, organised by the Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP) under the theme ‘Powered by You’.

PCR will travel across the seven emirates between February 4 and 10 offering free screenings and raising awareness on breast cancer and the importance of early detection to tackle the disease.

Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, PCR Special Envoy, led the riders Image Credit: Supplied

New study

The inauguration also saw the release of a collaborative research study titled ‘Measuring Breast Cancer Awareness Level in Sharjah’, conducted in partnership with NAMA Women Advancement. The study’s findings reveal that 55 per cent of surveyed individuals possess sufficient understanding of self-examination for breast cancer, while 46 per cent demonstrated awareness of general cancer symptoms. The data further indicated that 71 per cent of respondents were less knowledgeable about the causative factors of cancer.

The study also reveals that 33 per cent of the surveyed individuals perform a breast cancer self-examination on an annual basis. Furthermore, 86 per cent of respondents reported that their participation in PCR has inspired them to embrace healthier lifestyles and broaden their understanding of breast cancer.

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Strengthening community culture

Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of FOCP Board of Directors, said: “At FOCP, we operate under a clear vision focused on assisting cancer patients and their families in overcoming challenges they face, and since our operations align with Sharjah’s developmental journey to translate the vision of [Sheikh Sultan] and the directives of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, our responsibilities are huge to ensure the success of the emirate’s efforts.”

She also emphasised the FOCP’s ambitions transcend the association’s core pillars of advocacy, community awareness, and financial support for people with cancer. “We are adamant to making early detection a widely accepted cultural norm among the country’s citizens and residents. By achieving this goal, we would have yielded a major milestone in tackling the most prevalent cancers.”

Meanwhile, Reem BinKaram, Chairperson of PCR High Steering Committee, said: “The annual nationwide awareness ride serves as a model of institutional efforts in promoting health awareness among community members, by highlighting the significance of early detection and the need for regular breast cancer examinations. This is no longer simply an annual occurrence, but rather, a cultural norm in the Emirati society whenever the pink flag is raised.”

She discussed numerous initiatives and efforts of the PCR, focusing on the positive outcomes of the research study conducted to assess the level of breast cancer awareness in Sharjah.

“I find it imperative that the PCR continues its efforts, as breast cancer not only has the potential to impact families, but also communities. On the other hand, it is reassuring to note that with early detection, the cure rate of this disease can reach up to 95 per cent.”

Opening ceremony

During the opening ceremony, artist Fayez Al Saeed, performed a song titled ‘Powered by You’ highlighting the PCR’s achievements.

Aisha Al Mulla, director of the Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), told Gulf News the annual initiative is offering free breast cancer screenings in all seven emirates through their mobile clinics and mammography unit during the seven-day national ride.

Al Mulla said they chose Al Heera beach for the launch as it is a new attraction destination and many people visit this place, which furthers the aim is to spread awareness among a large segment of the community.

She added that since 2011, about 75,000 screenings have been conducted for women, including for 13,000 men.

The PCR started with the participation of 17 horses, 120 examiners and 100 volunteers. This year there will be 11 fixed clinics in all emirates, in addition to the mobile clinics.

Meanwhile Hana Mohammad, a mammogram specialist, told Gulf News the campaign is witnessing a great turnout. The previous year, there was cooperation with suburban affairs committees to conduct examinations for people at their homes.

“We invite everyone to visit the 12 clinics to conduct free screenings,” she said.

Stops in Sharjah and Ajman

After the inaugural ceremony, the horse riders saddled up, led by Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, PCR Special Envoy. The PCR made several stops in the emirate, including at Al Hisn in the Heart of Sharjah, before continuing their journey to Ajman at Thumbay Hospital, and concluding the inaugural day’s activity at Al Zorah Marina.

Throughout Day 1, residents flocked to get screened at the Pink Caravan Mammogram Unit stationed at Al Heera Beach in Sharjah and Al Zorah Marina in Ajman. Two minivan clinics are also available at Ajman Thumbay Hospital and Al Heera Beach.

Day 2 in Dubai

On Sunday, the ride will take place in Dubai, starting from DIFC Gate Avenue at 8am, passing by Marasi Parking towards Skydive Dubai before reaching JBR at 12.30pm and ending Day two activities in City Walk at 3pm.

Pink Caravan Mammogram clinics will be available at La Mer from 4pm-10pm, while the Daily Minivan Stops will be at Dubai Frame and City Walk between 4pm and 10pm with an hour break at 3pm.

Young riders raise hope

For young equestrians Sheikha Azza Bint Khaled bin Saqr Al Qasimi and Said Mohammad Al Musharakh, the annual Pink Caravan Ride is more than just a leisurely horseback ride - it’s a powerful platform to inspire the community, especially the younger generations and raise awareness about the importance of early detection and regular screening to tackle breast cancer.

Sheikha Azza, now 12, has been taking part in the ride since she was 5 Image Credit: Supplied

Sheikha Azza, a determined 12-year-old, has been a part of the annual PCR ride since the tender age of five and continues to use her passion for horse riding to make a positive impact on the UAE community. With her siblings by her side, she proudly set out on the first leg of the Sharjah route on Saturday, inspiring all those around her with her unwavering spirit.

And at just 9 years old, Said is already making a name for himself in the equestrian world and has been riding horses since the age of five at Sharjah Equestrian Club. For him, participating in the annual awareness ride is a thrill unlike any other, as he joined forces with like-minded individuals to spread a message of hope and the significance of early detection.

Said is among other young riders taking part this year Image Credit: Supplied

Together, Azza and Said are part of 820 riders that embody the youthful spirit of hope, courage, and determination, inspiring the community to make a difference and help eradicate the disease.