Karachi, October 25, 2020 (PPI-OT):Pakistan has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in Asia and this cancer continues to be one of the most fatal diseases in the country, said speakers at The Challenges of Breast Cancer event at the Aga Khan University.
Pakistan’s First Lady Samina Alvi was the chief guest at the event held to build public awareness of the disease and to raise funds for the treatment of patients in need.
During her speech at the event, Begum Alvi highlighted the importance of early detection of the disease and stressed the importance of efforts to educate the public about the disease.
“The high death rate from breast cancer in Pakistan is due to several factors,” said Begum Alvi. “But the major cause is lack of awareness.”
“Most of the breast cancer cases in Pakistan are reported at later stages when the chances of survival are nominal. If women know about the early symptoms of the disease, the death rate can be reduced,” she added.
Begum Alvi also called on members of society to join hands to make diagnostics and treatment for the disease affordable for all Pakistanis, especially the poor living in rural areas.
Speakers at the event also discussed a number of myths about the disease such as that a woman is shielded from breast cancer if no one in her family has suffered from the disease or the mistaken belief that breastfeeding can protect one from the disease.
“Breast cancer is not preventable but it is completely treatable if caught early,” said Dr Abida K. Sattar, head of breast surgery and director of the comprehensive breast surgery programme at AKUH. “It often requires a combination of treatments such as medicine, radiation therapy and surgery. Early detection enables more effective, less extensive treatment that maximises the chance of preserving the breast.”
During her speech at the event, Dr Sattar recommended that all adult women conduct a breast self-examination once a month and urged women over the age of 40 to go for an annual mammogram. She also advised women to seek care without delay if they notice lumps in the breast or armpit, unusual skin or nipple changes, or experience discharge from the nipples. “Not all breast lumps are dangerous but all breast lumps need to be evaluated by a trained doctor,” Dr Sattar added.
Other speakers at the session spoke about how the cost of treating the disease represented a barrier to patients seeking treatment. They noted how AKUH was playing a role in expanding access to quality care for breast cancer patients through its welfare programmes, which offered subsidised care worth Rs 11 million to 485 needy inpatients in 2019. They also announced plans to set up an exclusive fund to finance the treatment of financially disadvantaged breast cancer patients.
Other speakers at the event included AKU Medical College Dean Dr Adil Haider, AKUH Interim Chief Executive Officer Shagufta Hassan, Associate Professor of Paediatrics at AKU Dr Salman Kirmani, and Dental Surgeon and Associate Director of Dental Hygiene at AKU Dr Saida Rasul.
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