Dressed in pink, volunteers took part in a horseback parade across the UAE to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Named the Pink Caravan, the event took place from February 23rd to March 1st in all the seven emirates.
Alongside the horses were mobile medical clinics offering women and men guidance on self-examinations for the early detection of the disease.
Since it’s launch in 2011, the Pink Caravan initiative has provided almost 57,000 free clinical examinations to members of the public.
Afaf Afifi from Egypt is in her early 40s and has lived in the UAE for nearly two decades.
She says that, back in 2016, this community campaign helped her cope with the discovery that she had stage three breast cancer.
“When you think you will die, and you have three kids, it makes it a very big problem,” she says. “But when I’m going to [the initiative] for help, it’s like I found my family here.”
UNDERSTANDING THE STATISTICS
Breast cancer is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide according to the World Health Organization.
The MENA region, and some countries in South Asia, have the highest annual diagnosis rates worldwide, mainly due to population growth and longer life expectancy.
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Breast cancer is the most common non-skin related malignancy in women living in GCC countries, according to reports from the US National Library of Medicine.
A 2018 report also identified that Arab patients with breast cancer showed advanced stages of malignancy at the time of diagnosis and at younger ages, compared to women in Western countries.
Dr. Houriya Kazim, the first Emirati female surgeon, is leading a research team analysing the DNA of tumours from 57 women in the UAE.
Dr. Kazim expalins that whilst in North America and Western Europe, the median age for breast cancer is 62-years-old, in the Middle East, North Africa and Indian subcontinent the disease affects in average women in their mid-40’s.
“It’s a big deal and we still don’t know why,” she states.
Via her reasearch, Dr. Kazim hopes to one day provide younger Arab women with an answer.
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