x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Polo club turns pink to support cancer awareness

The spectators wore pink and so did some of the polo players to help support a breast cancer awareness event.

A visitor to the Pink Polo event receives information about breast cancer awareness. Women could also make appointments for examinations and mammograms.
A visitor to the Pink Polo event receives information about breast cancer awareness. Women could also make appointments for examinations and mammograms.

GHANTOOT // Mariam Essa al Rumithy was only 37 years old when she noticed a lump in her breast while getting dressed five years ago.

Although a lieutenant for Al Ain Police's medical services department, she had never done a breast self-examination before.

"I had been thinking cancer happened to certain people, and also that I was too young," she said. "Maybe it was ignorance."

She had the tumour removed and began radiation therapy within weeks.

Today, she is clear of all cancer and now constantly encourages friends and family to perform self-examinations as well as undergo regular clinical screenings.

Mariam recalled her battle with the disease from the terrace of the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club as spectators watched players decked out in pink shirts take to the pitch.

She was among fellow cancer survivors and medical experts who attended the Pink Polo event, which aimed to stress the importance of breast self-examinations as part of a campaign organised by the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad).

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country and is increasingly found in women between the ages of 40 and 45, about 10 years younger than in Europe and the US, according to Haad.

Visitors at the polo match wore pink to show their support for the campaign and people were able to make appointments for examinations and mammograms through Haad.

Marie-Louise Fjallskog, the head of oncology at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, also sat with women to explain how to feel for changes in their breasts.

"Often, women will come in with a huge lump having never even realised it was ever there, and in many cases it is too late to help them," she said. "They need to become more familiar with their body to recognise when something is wrong. It will save their lives."

Reem Renno, a student at the University of Sharjah, wore a bright pink blouse to the match and said she plans to have her first breast screening next year when she turns 20 years old.

"I came today to be supportive, because breast cancer is a huge threat, and to make sure that I learn how to protect myself against it," she said.

Maria Briganti made an appointment for her first mammogram after driving to the event from Dubai with her husband.

"I've been meaning to do it, and hearing about this event prompted me to act," she said.

Dr Jala Taher, senior programme manager for Haad, said: "It's important for us to reach different segments of the public for this campaign, whether it is something for university students or an event like this for the upper class, to educate women about early detection and treatment. We want to especially target local, national women."

Worldwide campaigns use pink ribbons and themes to promote October as breast cancer awareness month and Carrie McNeill, organiser of the event and marketing manager for the polo club, was able to persuade the players to wear pink for the occasion.

"While I have not been affected directly by breast cancer, it is an issue that I feel very passionate about and believe cannot be addressed enough," Dr Taher said. "When the players and Haad were willing to get involved, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to educate other women."

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank's team wore pink in their match against Estee Lauder Companies, which had players dressed in white. ADCB won by two goals, while Nasser al Shamsi, ADCB's captain, was given the most valuable player award.

econroy@thenational.ae