DHA to boost health plans to include early cancer detection tests
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DHA to boost health plans to include early cancer detection tests

In spite of the rate of cancer cases increasing around the world, the good news is that health professionals are getting better at detecting cancerous cells and growths too. In the Middle East, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) continues to push on with its healthcare reforms, recently announcing that early cancer detection tests would be included in the country’s mandatory basic health coverage scheme.

This is great news for Emiratis and expats alike; the bolstered plans will offer a range of essential health benefits to improve the health outcomes of people in Dubai. Just what will these plans cover, and what are the cancer rates like here? This week, UAE Medical Insurance takes a look at cancer and insurance in Dubai.

doctor performing an early cancer detection test

What are these DHA plans?

Disclosed by Dr Haider Yousuf, Director of the Public Health Funding Department at the DHA, the plan amendments will be part of the coverage in the basic health insurance packages that were phased in between 2014 and 2016. As it stands, resident employees with salaries below AED 4,000 a month can pick up an Essential Benefits Plan for as little as AED 500 to AED 700 per year. These packages include:

  • Access to a general physician/ family physician
  • Referral to specialists
  • Surgical procedures
  • Laboratory services: tests and investigations provided to help a doctor diagnose an injury, illness, or condition, or to monitor the effectiveness of a particular treatment
  • Emergency services
  • Maternity care

Adding the ability for these plans to include early cancer detection tests and policyholders can be assured that their insurance has some pretty comprehensive benefits available should they need it.

What exactly are early cancer detection tests?

There are an extensive number of tests used to detect cancerous cells in your body, however here are a few of the more common ones:


A biopsy can be used for most types of cancer and is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis. Biopsies examine tissue and provide analysis determining whether or not cancerous cells exist. Doctors will often recommend a biopsy after a physical examination or imaging study has identified a possible tumour.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

This is where a diagnostic examination of the bone marrow is performed so that doctors can make an assessment about the development and function of blood cells.


A colonoscopy is a diagnostic examination for looking inside the large intestines to detect any potential tumours.

Computed tomography scan

Commonly referred to as a CT Scan, this diagnostic exam is used to detect tumours, determine the stage of a disease, whether cancerous cells have spread, and assess the effectiveness of cancer treatments.


There are different types of endoscopic tests which involve doctors using a thin tube with a powerful light and camera to see inside the body. These can be used to check a number of areas on your body, including your trachea, vagina and cervix, bladder, stomach and duodenum, and your rectum and colon.

Magnetic resonance imaging

An MRI is an imaging test that is used to find cancer, as well as assess it. It works by using powerful magnets and radio waves to produce pictures of your body’s tissue.


Getting a mammogram is common for women testing for breast cancer, but it can be used for men as well (in fact, it’s more effective in men who generally have less dense tissue). The x-ray images can be used to find small tumors or irregularities in the breast.

Pap test

Also known as a pap smear, this test allows doctors to detect cervical cancer or identify early changes in the cells of a woman’s cervix that could lead to cancer.

The types of tests available to you will depend on the details of the DHA changes and the hospitals and insurance plans themselves.

Cancer rates in the Middle East

According to The National, cases of cancer in the Middle East are expected to double by 2030. The World Health Organization warned health authorities in 2016 that a lack of action in tackling the almost 400,000 cancer-caused deaths a year will result in the problem worsening. Dr Aladdin Maaraoui, Chief of Oncology and Haematology at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said that while the mortality rate was dropping, the incidence of cancer was on the rise.

Lung cancer is also a significant issue in the Middle East, with our previous article highlighting that more than 16,000 children and 1.1 million adults continue to use tobacco each day. This has led to a prediction that up to 30,000 people a year could be diagnosed with lung cancer in the Middle East by 2020. Dr Falah Al Khatib, consultant oncologist at Dubai’s City Hospital, warned that lung cancer represents about 19.5% of deaths from cancer a year.

Getting insurance in Dubai

If you’re not already aware of it, the DHA made it mandatory for all people present in the Emirate to hold health insurance. Those of you who have still not obtained appropriate health coverage should know that you’re liable for a fine from the DHA following a deadline of March this year. Health insurance plans a relatively affordable, and expatriates in Dubai will find their visa applications denied without coverage.

If you’re in the market for a Dubai health plan, or you’re interested in knowing just what early cancer detection tests are available under your current plan, then give the expert team at UAE Medical Insurance a call. Their advisers are experienced in finding the right coverage for the best price, so for a free quote or some advice - contact them today!


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