Karachi: Speaking at a seminar on the eve of World Cancer Day, experts warned that deaths from cancer in the developing world could grow to nine million by 2030 if effective measures were not taken promptly in countries like Pakistan.
They attributed unhealthy lifestyle, poor nutrition, rapid and unplanned urbanization to increasing burden of cancers on poor people in the country.
The seminar was jointly organised by the medical committee of the city’s Arts Council, KIRAN Hospital, Medionix and Essa Laboratories and the speakers included KIRAN Hospital’s director Dr Akhtar Ahmed, consultant clinical oncologist Dr Asghar, Liaquat National Hospital’s consultant general & breast surgeon Prof. Rufina Soomro, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital’s ENT surgeon Dr Qaisar Sajjad, director (Health) Karachi Dr Zafar Aijaz, Essa Laboratories’ vice chairman Sabeeha Essa, Dr Farhan Essa and Dr Mehboob while Senator Haseeb Khan was the guest of honour.
Dr Akhtar Ahmed said that considering the potential of delivering effective cancer care, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) had established 18 medical centres across the country, which provided quality care to patients with the technology of nuclear medicine and radiation oncology and around 800,000 patients visited those centres annually to utilize various diagnostic and therapeutic facilities available there.
Dr Rufina Soomro said breast cancer was the commonest cancer in women worldwide, while Pakistan had the highest incidence of breast cancer in Asia. “As compare to West, we see such women at a younger age, at least a decade earlier than in West. We also see women at an advanced stage, which becomes a challenge for treating doctors,” she said.
“Early diagnosis can be done by breast self examination, examination by trained medical personnel, regular screening and mammogram. We recommend public awareness and adequate resources to deal with the magnitude of this lethal disease in our part of the world, she added.
Speaking on the topic “Oral Cancer – A menace of Society”, Dr Qaisar Sajjad said that ratio of people, suffering from oral cancer or cancer related diseases in Asia, was much higher than Europe’s two to four per cent.
He said that main causes of oral cancer are eating chalia, tobacco in any form (smoking, shisha, chewing), toxic fumes, artificial colour used in sweats, supari, etc. “Around 122 brands of sweat supari are freely available in market. General public should know that the juice of any chalia is a carcinogen. This is very unfortunate that fungal infected chalia is still being imported in our poor country,” he said.
Deploring that sub mucous fibrosis (precancerous disease) common among teenagers is caused by chalia, gutka, etc., Dr Sajjad said: “We can easily eliminate oral cancer by banning import of chalia and by imposing a ban on smoking cigarette, shisha, particularly at public places.
Dr Zafar Aijaz said that a district-level action plan was being chalked out to enhance capacity of lady health workers and later utilize this force to make common people aware of health issues and prevention.
Dr Farhan Essa and Sabeeha Essa stressed the need for creating awareness about various health-related issues among the masses.