x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Horse-drawn caravans will screen for cancer

Ten horse-drawn caravans equipped with mobile mammogram equipment and trained staff will travel across the country from next month to raise awareness of breast cancer and encourage people to get examined.

SHARJAH // Ten horse-drawn caravans equipped with mobile mammogram equipment and trained staff will travel across the country from next month to raise awareness of breast cancer and encourage people to get examined.

The Pink Caravan campaign was announced yesterday by Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed, the wife of Sharjah's ruler, Dr Sultan bin Mohammed.

Starting on February 2 and running until April, the caravans will operate daily, with nurses and radiologists performing free breast examinations and spreading the message of the importance of early detection.

The initiative will also work as a fundraiser, with hopes of raising Dh12 million to purchase a mobile MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) unit.

Cecile Guillemot, the chairperson of the campaign, said the idea for the horse-drawn caravans came to her from a close family friend, who was a survivor of breast cancer.

"This is something very close to the hearts of people in this region. I thought it was a perfect match and we'd be able to engage the community because horses draw so much attention from people, whether they are riders or admirers."

In addition to being a symbol of the Arabian culture, horses can reach rural areas that lack easy access to hospitals or clinics.

"Awareness and early detection are our first priorities, and if we are able to get the mobile MRI we can reach out to those who live in the deserts and in the mountains; people who are not close to the cities or the hospitals," Sheikha Jawaher said.

A series of activities will complement the caravans, including workshops and seminars in universities, schools and hospitals to educate people about breast cancer.

In addition to raising awareness, Sheikha Jawar said that a second and crucial goal was developing a registry of cancer sufferers.

"This is non-existent in the UAE," she said.

"Sadly we don't know how many people have cancer or what kind of cancer they have because some of them go to different facilities. We've never had an overall count.

Part of the journey is also to educate the UAE people that breast cancer is not only an illness that afflicts women. "We want to educate everyone that within every 100 cases of breast cancer, one of them is a man,” she said.

The Pink Campaign initiative is part of a programme called Kashf, or Scan, by the Friends of Cancer Patients, a society that provides sufferers with the social and financial support they need for treatment and recovery.

Details on the progress of the caravans will appear on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

A telethon and an auction are also planned.

mismail@thenational.ae