KARACHI: As October is observed as world Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the world, it has emerged that in Pakistan, due to lack of awareness, the disease claims 40,000 lives every year.
Oncologist Dr Ali Shazif Baquri while talking to Bol News said that the mortality rate was so high in Pakistan because 70 per cent of breast cancer patients come for treatment at stage three and most of them never seek treatment due to lack of awareness, societal taboos and stigmas attached to the disease.
He said that on the other hand, inefficient healthcare system, lack of healthcare facilities, absence of female consultants and financial issues were some barriers in screening and early diagnosis and treatment of women with symptoms.
He said that since Pakistan had no national cancer registry, there was a need to conduct local empirical research on breast cancer.
Dr Erum Bukhari from the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre said that breast cancer was 100pc curable and a number of patients were leading successful lives after treatment. “All what is needed is early diagnosis so that they may continue with their lives without any stumbling blocks,” she continued.
Pink Ribbon, a local NGO which is extensively involved in research on breast cancer, says in its report that breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. Average 90,000 cases are being reported while 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year in Pakistan, which is the highest rate of breast cancer deaths in Asia. These statistics show that over 10 million women in Pakistan are at risk of breast cancer.
The report further added that the average age of getting breast cancer is 55 years worldwide whereas in Pakistan the maiden age is 35. It is a rare trend that young girls are being diagnosed with breast cancer which is a warning for our health policymakers.
Farzana Ahsan who is a breast cancer survivor also appealed to the people to take this disease seriously and said, “There is a need to initiate an extensive drive against the stigma attached to the disease.”
She recalled the time when doctors diagnosed her with the breast cancer, most family members and neighbours distanced themselves from her.
She further said that those were very difficult days for her family. However, “let me tell you that my story can serve as an example for those who feel that life is over after being diagnosed with cancer,” she added.
She concluded, “It is important to educate people about prevention and early detection. If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, the chances of survival are more than 90pc.”
Another breast cancer survivor, businesswoman Afia Ahmed, while talking to Bol News said, “It is hard to imagine [what] a woman goes through when she is diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I just tell all women that it is not the end of life if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, many women here [have] fought and won the battle, never lose hope and wage war against the stigma related with the disease,” she said.