Cultural taboos keeping breast cancer patients far from treatment: experts

Dr. Aijaz Fatima Cancer Patient Welfare Society organized walk & seminar to mark Breast Cancer Awareness month as Pinktober

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KARACHI: An estimated 40,000 women die annually from Breast Cancer in Pakistan, experts stressed recently as the country observes the month of Breast Cancer awareness.

Risk of breast cancer before the age of 75 is 11.8% on an annual scale and as much as 101,000 people succumb to the disease silently as women hesitate in seeking treatment.

A woman has a 1.52% risk (1 in 66) of breast cancer at the age of 40 and 49 years, which increases to 2.48%, (1 in 40) if a woman is in her 50s.

Age-specific frequency increases until the age group 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. Experts said to mark the world Breast Cancer awareness month also known as Pinktober.

Experts were speaking at the seminar organized by Dr Aijaz Fatima 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, Founder of Cancer Patient Welfare Society.

Motivating women to speak up about breast cancer, Chief Guest Dr Aijaz Fatim said the majority of cases in Pakistan are diagnosed not on time because of lack of awareness and cultural taboos that drive women to keep their disease a secret and hesitate in discussing breast cancer openly.

Stating this, she urged women to act upon early detection to prevent breast cancer.

What are the symptoms?

Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Ziauddin University, Dr Qurat-ul-Ain Badar apprised the gathering with the symptoms of breast cancer.

If you spot a lump or 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 becomes like orange peel, a change in the shape of nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast or becomes irregular in shape, A blood-stained discharge from the nipple, an eczema-like rash or ulcer over the breast, a swelling or lump in armpit. Please do not be afraid to see the doctor, who can decide if any tests are required or not.”

Only 25% of breast cancers are related to family history. Not every woman will develop breast cancer but there is five-times increase the risk of developing breast cancer in women. Cancer occurrence chances in women are; lung cancer 14 %, colorectal cancer 10% whereas breast cancer is 26 % in this case chances of mortality is only 15%. Treatment of breast cancer can be done through Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, Hormone therapy, targeted therapy, Dr Badar said.

Every 1 out of 9 women in Pakistan is at risk of developing breast cancer. 1 in 69 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast Cancers in their 40s and 1 in 6 breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49, said Consultant Radiologist, Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Dr. Sheeza Imtiaz.

Consultant Oncoplastic & Reconstructive Breast Surgeon, Aga Khan University Hospital, Dr Lubna M. Vohra while talking about screening and early detection of breast cancer, called it the most frequently detected cancer among women in Karachi, accounting for one-third of the cancers in the females.

“The incidence of breast cancer is very high in Karachi; the highest in Asia, except for the Jews in Israel. Right now every woman is at risk, the incidence increases with age. Screening & early detection is the best protection,” she stressed.

What can be done?

Director Oncology Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Prof.Tariq Siddiqui spoke about the preventions for early detection plans and emphasized women to have monthly breast self- exams, clinical breast exams regularly, complete body checkup and mammograms depending on their age and health history.

Screening mammogram should be done yearly after 40 years of age. By avoiding smoking, alcohol, dairy products, electromagnetic radiation, red meat, obesity, the late first birth of the child, hormone replacement therapy we can get rid of breast cancer. We can save ourselves by including healthy activities in our lives like exercise, diet, and fast walk climbing stairs rather than taking a lift and avoid sitting after meals.