According to reports, women should start screening as early as age 40 and begin yearly mammograms by age 45.

I lost an aunt to breast cancer two years ago. She passed away a day after I met her and the image of our last meeting is seared into my memory. She was a healthy lady, who had become frail as cancer gnawed at her. A vegetarian, who would go for a walk every evening for two hours without fail, the family was shocked when she was diagnosed with cancer. How could it be? She was the fittest person in our family; we all had questions, but cancer doesn't wait for answers and takes its own route.

She had the support of her two sons, who were devastated and did everything to help her. She'd visited the best doctors in the UAE, U.K. and India. Initially there were signs of improvement, but discovering the cancer in the later stages made the recovery difficult.

As I hugged her and took my leave at our last meeting, she smiled and said: "Don't worry about me, I will be fine very soon, you will see." As I write this, the memory is very real and difficult to digest.

Before this happened to my aunt, I'd never taken the issue of breast cancer seriously. I knew it was a grave issue, but no one I knew had it, so why bother? But after the incident, the threat became so real that I had to find out all about it to know why women today are under an alarming risk of breast cancer.

The risk of developing breast cancer is more prevalent in older women; those who have a family history of breast cancer and those who have sedentary lifestyles. Research has found that the risk of breast cancer can be limited by getting regular breast cancer screenings, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. According to reports, women should start screening as early as age 40 and begin yearly mammograms by age 45. It is important to know that early intervention dramatically increases the chances of survival and cure is nearly 99 per cent.

Reportedly, breast cancer is among the top five cancers in the UAE and the number one cause of fatalities among cancers. Today, women in their early thirties, who are under hormonal pills for birth control or have a relative with cancer, are also at risk and need to undergo periodic screening. Obesity is a lifestyle issue that is rampant in the region and is another cause behind developing breast cancer.

For those who are at a high risk due to genetic factors, regular screening can go a long way, as early detection in the first stage can help you avoid chemotherapy or radiation and help you beat cancer. Reportedly, there is an 80 to 90 per cent chance of curing breast cancer in the early stages.

Raising awareness

Sporting pink ribbons is not the only way one can be a part of raising awareness on the issue and there are number of ways people can participate and promote good health. Earlier this year, as part of the UAE's Year of Giving, over 453 women received free screening for breast cancer, as part of a campaign organised by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The campaign aimed to raise awareness about the importance of detecting cancer in its early stages. As part of the programme, the ministry set up a mobile clinic to facilitate mammograms. Clinics were equipped with specialised medical and technical staff, and participants received educational pamphlets and newsletters, and given therapeutic counselling, in order to raise awareness about the disease.

Signs of breast cancer

1. Formation of a new lump, which is hard, painless and irregular in shape. It can be tender, soft and round as well
2. Swelling
3. Skin irritation or dimpling
4. Breast pain
5. Redness or thickening of the nipple orbreast skin
6. Nipple discharge

Here are some events that are taking place in Dubai in October to mark the month of breast cancer awareness:

Pink Ladies Games
This fun event will see women of all cultures and ages come together for the cause. As part of the game, teams of three to five women will battle against each other in five fun challenges. The programme will run for half a day and doesn't require any athletic skills. Each challenge will last for 15 minutes. The event is raising funds for Pink Caravan, a UAE-based breast cancer awareness initiative by the Friends of Cancer Patients.
INFO: Friday, October 27 from 7am to 11:30am, price per team is Dh825, of which Dh160 goes to charity project Pink Caravan; Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort,

Charity Gala Dinner at Atelier M
The Dubai Marina hotspot will host a charity gala dinner to contribute towards the cause. This event aims to raise awareness for the prevention of breast cancer in the UAE and all funds raised will go to Pink Caravan. The evening will include a five-course set menu, charity auction and live entertainment.
INFO: Sunday, October 1, Dh550 per person,, 04 450 7766, Pier 7, 7 & 7M Floor, Dubai Marina,

Ignite Pink is Punk
The Ignite Pink is Punk campaign is back this year and will be raising funds. Participants can enter as teams of two. The race categories include open 600m swim/3km beach and pavement run; sprint 400m swim/1.6km beach and pavement run; junior 200m swim/800m beach run and fun run 3km beach and pavement run.
INFO: Friday, October 6, from 6am to 9:30am, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, East Crescent, Palm Jumeirah, 04 456 2482, 

Invest in a yoga mat

Yoga is a great way to promote relaxation and general health, and yoga brand Chanmaya is launching an exclusive yoga towel for breast cancer awareness with 50 per cent of its proceeds raised going to Brest Friends in partnership with Al Jalila Foundation. The charity yoga towel is flamboyant pink in colour, features a pink ribbon and the design depicts a woman surrounded by butterflies. Designed from soft, microfibre material, the yoga towel offers a highly absorbent and slip-free surface. Furthermore, it is made from eco-friendly and quick-dry material.
INFO: The charity towel is available on

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