The rate of breast cancer in Pakistan has increased alarmingly fast. One out of every nine women is diagnosed with breast cancer and it is time that we pay attention on this. In the female populace aged over 45, the incidence is considerably higher thus spreading awareness is the need of time.
International Foundation and Garments (IFG), in a joint venture with Pink Ribbon Pakistan, have been going to schools, colleges and universities to conduct awareness programs for breast cancer since the past 25 years now. This exertion should be acknowledged and we have to spur more health organizations to gear up now and join hands for this noble cause.
The way these projects are designed is impressive. An oncologist shows young women how to do breast self-examination on a month-to-month basis, which could be of great help. Likewise, young women can make inquiries and can ask about distinctive points of interest related to breast cancer – all free of charge.
This year too, the program was conducted accordingly. A breast cancer awareness program was setup late October by the IFG and Pink Ribbon Pakistan. The program was named Pinktober. A corner at the Dolmen Mall Clifton was setup recently to spread awareness about the causes and symptoms of breast cancer and how it can be diagnosed and treated. The awareness program had female specialist doctors to brief women on breast cancer.
We spoke to Dr. Rufina Soomro (Consultant Surgeon, Liaquat National Hospital) regarding this awareness program and how it can be of help.
How can breast cancer be diagnosed at an early stage?
Dr Rufina: There are three ways to check this. One is by carrying out breast self-examination. A woman can check herself at home if she knows the right way to do so. Second option is to get examined by a trained person, and third way is by screening mammograms. Mammograms can pick up cancer at least two years earlier before it is clinically evident.
Is there any prevention to this?
Dr Rufina: The early diagnosis is the prevention. You cannot prevent one from having breast cancer but if you pick it up early it can be cured.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
Dr Rufina: You need to regularly examine yourself to find these symptoms, and this needs to be taken seriously. Any change in the size of your breast, finding a lump, any change in the shape of your breast, nipple retraction, any dimpling, any change in the color are all symptoms of breast cancer. The sad part about this is that breast cancer does not cause any initial pain. Women in our society remain quiet about such changes as they do not feel any pain and by the time they realize something is wrong, it is already too late.
Can a third stage cancer be cured?
Dr Rufina: Yes, it is possible to cure a third stage cancer. We look at the tumor biology. Some tumors are very slow-growing while some are very aggressive and need aggressive treatment. It might get difficult to cure a third stage cancer but it is surely not impossible.
Do you have any message for the public?
Dr Rufina: We need to take serious steps to bring this alarming rate down. Unfortunately, we don’t have adequate resources to tackle this and there is no one from the government paying heed to this. We need proper setup to counter this alarming increase of breast cancer in Pakistan.
Women are alerted to refrain from HRT at menopause and refrain from smoking and drinking. We advise them to exercise regularly and get rid of fattening food products and items with high sugar content.
Pink Ribbon Pakistan is planning to establish Pakistan’s first breast cancer hospital in Lahore and needs support in form of donations. As responsible citizens of Pakistan, we all need to unite against breast cancer and make significant contributions to tackle it before it gets out of hand.