Dr. Sawsan Al Madhi: “Breast cancer treatment has a high rate of success if disease is detected in its early stages”
With Pink Caravan’s annual week-long breast cancer awareness ride around the UAE set to commence February 28, the organisation is ramping up its message that early detection is essential to ensure effective treatment. The pan-UAE breast cancer initiative that falls under the umbrella of Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) is using the run up to this year’s ride to educate the nation’s population on the importance of breast examinations in combating the disease, which is the number one form of cancer in women.
Dr. Sawsan Al Madhi, Director General of FoCP and Head of the Pink Caravan Medical and Awareness Committee, is keen to highlight that regular check-ups are essential to identify any abnormalities as soon as possible. She sends out the positive message that treatments has a high rate of success if cancer is detected in its early stages and advocated the Pink Caravan Ride as being a good opportunity to receive a free breast examination.
“Breast Cancer is a medical condition like many others which can be treated with an extremely high success rate as long as it is identified at the earliest opportunity and we need to ensure that this message is understood. We have excellent medical professionals and facilities in the UAE and I would urge men and women to take advantage of this to ensure that they undergo regular breast check-ups. This year’s Pink Caravan Ride, which takes place from February 28 to March 6, will travel around the seven emirates offering free breast assessments and mammograms to men and women, providing the ideal opportunity for residents and citizens to receive a breast health check,” she said.
Dr. Al Madhi highlighted that breast cancer makes up 25 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in women globally, according to the American Cancer Society, with risk factors for the disease in women including having a first pregnancy in their thirties or older, being overweight, undergoing menopause hormone therapy, having a sedentary lifestyle, being aged 55 years or older and having dense breast tissue.
“While some factors for breast cancer are genetic, others can be successfully addressed, such as ensuring a nutritious diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, taking physical exercise and careful use of supplementary hormones. Women should talk to their doctors about when and how often mammograms are needed based on their individual risk factors. They should also see a doctor if they notice any breast changes, such as lumps, skin changes, swelling, pain, changes in the nipple and anything unusual in the breast area,” she said.
Dr. Al Madhi also expressed her gladness that the message about the importance of screening seemed to be getting through, revealing that breast cancer death rates declined from 8.7 per 100,000 women to five per 100,000 women in the five years from 2009 to 2014, with late detection of the disease dropping from 64 per cent in 2009 to 16 per cent in 2013 (https:// haad.ae).
Approximately 4,500 new cases of cancer in its various forms are reported in the UAE each year. In 2012, the disease was the third leading cause of deaths in Abu Dhabi. The UAE is determined to bring down cancer fatalities by nearly 18 per cent by 2021, with a reduction in the number of deaths due to the disease being one of the key performance indicators of the pillar of world-class healthcare of the UAE National Agenda (https://government.ae).
Launched in 2011 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Patron of the Friends of Cancer Patients Society, International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC, Pink Caravan plays a crucial role in raising awareness and providing a mobile screening facility across the country.
Last year’s Pink Caravan Ride took place March 7-17 and saw the participation of 150 horse riders who accompanied the mobile CareVan clinic that provided free medical check-ups for residents and citizens during its tour around the UAE. The ride and its associated activities completed a total of 7,483 clinical examinations over its 10 days, with 6,366 women undergoing assessment and 1,117 men. Included in the medical tests were 2,542 mammograms. Twelve positive cases of breast cancer were detected and the patients referred for treatment, proving the potential life-saving capacity of the campaign.