x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Compulsory breast cancer scans should be UAE-wide, says minister

A minister is calling for compulsory breast cancer scans for Emirati women to be extended nationwide.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, right, is presented with the Legion d'honneur by Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economy, in Paris.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, right, is presented with the Legion d'honneur by Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economy, in Paris.

ABU DHABI // A minister has called for compulsory breast cancer scans for Emirati women to be extended nationwide. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister for Foreign Trade, gave her backing to the scheme, announced this week by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), under which women aged between 40 and 69 will be required to have a mammogram to have their Thiqa health insurance card renewed.

Speaking in Paris, where she was receiving the prestigious Légion d'honneur from the French government, Sheikha Lubna said more women needed to be pushed to have the scans. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Emirates, where 44 per cent of the cases are fatal, according to HAAD. "Some women do mammograms as they know it is essential for their health," she said. "However, there are many women who are not well enough informed or are scared of the thought of doing mammograms and it is important that they be pushed."

Sheikha Lubna regularly campaigns to raise awareness about breast cancer in the UAE, even publicising her own mammogram two years ago. The Legion of Honour dates back to the time of Napoleon and is granted to figures of political and artistic importance. Recent recipients including Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian politician who was held hostage by rebels in South America for six years, and JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.

Sheikha Lubna is the first woman from the Gulf region to receive the honour, which was presented by Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economy and industry, on behalf of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. The ceremony on Monday was attended by Emirati and French officials, dignitaries and diplomats, according to WAM, the state news agency. Sheikha Lubna was chosen because she was the first woman in the Gulf to take on a ministerial position, serving as minister of economy before taking over her present role.

"The order is a tribute to the women in the UAE for her leading role under the unlimited support of the country's leadership and its care for advancement and empowerment of women," said Ms Lagard. A member of Sharjah's ruling family, Sheikha Lubna obtained a bachelor's degree in the US and an executive MBA from the American University of Sharjah before going on to create Tejari, an online marketplace used throughout much of the Middle East.

She has received a number of awards for her accomplishments as a woman in business and was appointed to her first ministerial role in 2004. tspender@thenational.ae jgerson@thenational.ae