KARACHI: “In Pakistan, 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer before the age of 75 is 11.8%. Every year we are losing 101,000 people to cancer. Between the age of 40 to 49 years, a woman has a 1.52% (1 in 66) chance of developing breast cancer. Between the ages of 50 and 59 years, the risk increases to 2.48% (1 in 40). The age-specific frequency increases till the age of 75 to 79 years (480.7 per 100,000 women), after which it declines to 431.4 per 100,000 in women 85 years or older,” said experts marking World Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also known as Pinktober.
Experts were speaking at the seminar organized by Dr Aijaz Fatima of the Cancer Patient Welfare Society (CPWS). An awareness walk was also arranged to create vigilance and alertness about breast cancer under the supervision of Dr Aijaz Fatima, Chief Guest of the event and Founder of the Cancer Patient Welfare Society.
Motivating women to speak up about breast cancer, Founder, Dr Aijaz Fatima from the Cancer Patient Welfare Society, said, “Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women all over the world.
The majority of cases in Pakistan are not diagnosed on time because of a lack of awareness and cultural taboos that drive women to keep the disease a secret, and they feel shy to discuss this topic, even within the family.
They do not feel comfortable to discuss breast cancer openly. We can only stop this by educating people about early detection, and that is the best preventive method for breast cancer.”
Providing awareness about the symptoms of breast cancer, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Ziauddin University, Dr Qurat-ul-Ain Badar, said, “If you spot a lump or a thickening in an area of the breast, a change in the size or shape of breast, dimpling of the skin, or the skin over the breast attains the look of orange peel, refer to a doctor. Additional features include changes in the shape of the nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast, or becomes irregular in shape. If you notice a blood-stained discharge from the nipple, eczema-like rash or ulcer over the breast, a swelling or lump in the armpit, please do not hesitate to see a doctor, who can decide if any further tests are required or not.”
“Only 25% of breast cancers are related to family history. Cancer occurrence chances in women are 14% for lung cancer, 10% for colorectal cancer, whereas, for breast cancer, the chances are much higher at 26%. In this case, the chances of mortality are only 15%. The treatment of breast cancer can be done through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy,” she noted.
“We are in a very alarming condition. Every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and every 13 minutes, a woman dies of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Every 1 out of 9 women in Pakistan is at risk of developing breast cancer. 1 in 69 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancers in their 40s, and 1 in 6 breast cancers occur in women aged between 40 to 49 years, said Consultant Radiologist, Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Dr Sheeza Imtiaz.
Consultant Oncoplastic and Reconstructive Breast Surgeon, Aga Khan University Hospital, Dr Lubna M Vohra, while talking about screening and early detection of breast cancer, said, “This is the most frequently occurring cancer amongst women in Karachi, accounting for one-third of the cancers found in females.
The incidence of breast cancer is very high in Karachi, the highest in Asia, except for in Israel. Right now, every woman is at risk, and the risk incidence increases with age. Screening and early detection is the best protection.”
Director Oncology, Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Prof Tariq Siddiqui, while talking about prevention, discussed early detection plans. He emphasized that women should have monthly breast self-exams, regular clinical breast exams, complete body checkups, and mammograms depending on their age and health history. Screening mammograms should be done yearly after the age of 40. By avoiding smoking, alcohol, dairy products, electromagnetic radiation, red meat, obesity, late first birth of the child, and hormone replacement therapy, we can get rid of breast cancer. We can save ourselves by including healthy activities in our lives like exercise, diet, fast walking, and climbing stairs rather than taking a lift, and avoid sitting after meals.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Convener of CPWS, Amir Shahzad, stated that in developing and underdeveloped countries, the main reason behind the rising number of deaths is that most of the women with breast cancer are diagnosed in the last stages of the disease. This is due to the lack of awareness about early detection and the multiple barriers to health services. Now, breast cancer is growing due to an increase in life expectancy, urbanization, and the adoption of western lifestyles.
The seminar was attended by a large number of doctors, nurses, students, staff, patients, their families, and the public.