‘Over 40,000 die of breast cancer every year in Pakistan’
KARACHI: With 90,000 breast cancer cases being annually reported in the country and over 40,000 deaths caused by it, Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia, though early diagnosis can save lives and make a difference.
These figures were highlighted at a fundraiser held here on Friday with an aim to build the country’s first dedicated hospital for breast cancer in Lahore by Pink Ribbon Pakistan (PRP).
Speaking at the event that also marked the launch of Friends of Pink Ribbon’s Karachi chapter, Dr Rufina Soomro, a leading breast cancer specialist who is currently heading the surgery department of Liaquat National Hospital, said that myths and misconceptions, cultural beliefs, taboos and lack of awareness mainly hindered early diagnosis.
“As compared to other types of cancer, breast cancer has over 90pc chances of complete cure if diagnosed at an early stage. Yet the sad part of it is that most cases are reported late,” she said.
Citing LNH data, she said only 2.3pc breast cancer patients had reported at an early stage some two decades ago whereas the percentage was still less than 10pc. Since cancer doesn’t cause pain, it doesn’t receive attention until health conditions got serious, she explained.
“The situation is just the opposite in the West where a majority of patients reported at an early stage of the disease,” she said.
Besides, Dr Soomro added, mostly patients diagnosed with breast cancer were in their 40s in Pakistan, whereas mostly breast cancer patients reporting at hospitals in developed countries were in their 50s.
Referring to her experience at LNH, she said every year 10pc to 20pc new cases of breast cancer were reported at the hospital. “Back in 1994, I had 58 patients, now some 1,823 patients are registered with me. Among other things, this rise is also linked to increased awareness and availability of diagnosis and treatment facilities, which I believe are still very few given the high level of prevalence of the disease,” she said.
PRP chief executive Omar Aftab underscored the need for creating awareness about the disease, recalling past instances when it was impossible to use mass media for public education on the disease as people had a problem with the word ‘breast’. Unfortunately, the problem still existed, he said.
“The hospital being established in Lahore will offer free screening facilities while the needy would be treated from Zakat funds,” he said.
Mariam Malik, a breast cancer survivor, talked about her battle with the disease and urged women to have regular self-examination and screening tests for the disease.