Pink Caravan’s drive to fight breast cancer enters 10th year

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Nevin Al Sukari - Abu Dhabi - With 64,012 free medical screenings, support of 795 medical clinics, and over 300,000 volunteering hours since its inception in 2011, Pink Caravan — an initiative dedicated to raising awareness for early detection of cancer, rides resolutely into its 10th year, combining its educational messaging with action in the form of free health screen checks for both women and men.

From Feb.26 – Mar.6 this year, the Pink Caravan Ride will see its experienced horse riders march forward to each of the seven emirates to achieve its goal of 10,000 medical screenings over a 10-day duration. Commencing in Sharjah on Feb.26, the annual ride will have scheduled stops in each emirate, concluding its ride in Abu Dhabi.

Pink Caravan, launched nine years ago under the aegis of the UAE-based non-profit Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), is a pan-UAE breast cancer awareness initiative that enjoys the support and patronage of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Founder and Royal Patron of FOCP, International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

Since 2011, the Pink Caravan Ride has traversed 1,800 kilometres across the UAE with 670 riders and 810 volunteers on the ground to create awareness of the importance of regular screening and early detection of breast cancer. More than 18,500 mammograms have been conducted, and of these, 75 individuals have tested positive for breast cancer.

“With breast cancer being one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UAE, Pink Caravan has always been driven by a purpose to go beyond mere messaging,” says Reem BinKaram, Chairperson of PCR Higher Steering Committee. “Scientific studies have proven that early detection can increase survival rates up to 98 per cent,” Reem BinKaram continued. “Our goal in the Pink Caravan Ride this 10th year, therefore, is to conduct 10,000 screenings over a 10-day period — a number that was achieved over the course of one full year when the ride first began.

“Even when the subject was considered taboo, we never shied away from conversing about it to dispel myths and assuage fears. For us, early detection meant a better prognosis and better quality of life,” BinKaram added. “Today, through the annual ride, we continue to remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that breast cancer awareness and prevention stay high on the agenda of all stakeholders.”

Starting out with just 50 volunteers, the Pink Caravan Ride (PCR) had an 11-day ride in 2011 but ran its free screenings for the entire year. This success earned the campaign widespread recognition and support from private and public entities in the following year, 2012.

2013 was a landmark year as PCR witnessed its first case of male breast cancer while 2014 cemented its status as an annual ride covering the seven emirates under the directives of its patrons, His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher.

During these years, PCR had worked with public and private health clinics in taking its agenda forward and referred women to these clinics. Therefore, the donation of Dhs13.6 million in 2015 by Sharjah Media Corporation for the purchase of a Mammography Mobile Clinic marked a turning point in PCR’s history as it enabled it to venture out into the community with a fully equipped and staffed mobile clinic, and expand its reach to more far-out, distant areas.

In 2016, PCR further advanced its agenda and broadened its scope with the setting up of Sharjah Breast Care Centre, a comprehensive and integrated advanced breast cancer treatment and surgical solutions centre, in collaboration with the University Hospital in Sharjah and Gustave Roussy, a leading cancer research institute and the biggest health centre dedicated to oncology in Europe.

More than 7,000 patients were screened in just 11 days at the 7th PCR in 2017 while in 2018, it launched its state-of-the-art permanent Mammography Mobile Clinic which helped bring 17 positive cases to light.

Last year, in 2019, PCR introduced new approaches to breast cancer treatment, with genetic testing, to help put diagnosed women on the right course of treatment.

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