KARACHI: The 56th Public Awareness Seminar on “Breast Cancer” was recently held at the Dr Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), University of Karachi. The Dr Panjwani Center and the Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP) jointly organized the seminar. Dr Rufina Soomro, a professor of Surgery at the Liaquat National Hospital spoke on the occasion.
While addressing the audience, Dr Rubina said, “Cancer is not a death sentence. Breast cancer has become the most commonly reported cancer in Pakistani women. Roughly one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their life.”
She said that almost 30% of the cancers found in women are breast cancers. The chances that breast cancer was responsible for a woman’s death is about one in 36, which was approximately 3%.
Dr Soomro said that around 80% of women with breast cancer had no family history of the disease. “The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, as about 77% of women with breast cancer are over the age of 50 at the time of diagnosis,” she added.
Dr Rubina lamented that many people in the country were misguided by various kinds of alternate unscientific methods. Delaying treatment caused the disease to advance, thus making it a challenge to treat.
The risk factors of breast cancer included women over the age of 40 years, early menarche, late menopause, late first-child, alcohol use, radiation, geographic location, diet, obesity, cancer in the other breast, family history, etc.
Some studies suggest that drinking alcohol can increase one’s breast cancer risk, she said. It seems that one drink a day increased the risk slightly; however, having 2 to 5 drinks daily could increase the risk 1.5 times.
Dr Soomro said, “No one dies of breast cancer but only of cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.”
Advances in cancer detection technology and treatment have increased the survival rates for most common types of cancer, she pointed out, adding that the symptoms of the disease included severe nausea and vomiting. Hair loss is much less common these days. “Managing the side effects of cancer treatment remains an integral part of cancer care,” she added.
“Good breast health is a three-step approach, including self-examination, clinical examination, and mammography,” she mentioned.
Dr Soomro rejected the myth that alternative therapies were effective without surgery and chemo, as a cancer treatment is usually worse than the disease. She also discarded the idea that if someone were diagnosed with cancer, he or she would probably die.
Dr Somroo urged Pakistani women to stop smoking, limit alcohol intake, eat a well-balanced nutritious diet, and do physical exercise.