Karachi: With approximately 40,000 deaths and 90,000 new cases every year, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Pakistan. The number of deaths can be reduced significantly with early detection and treatment, said experts at a walk to mark the Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH).
The walk was part of a series of events organized by the Hospital to raise awareness for an early detection of the disease.
Clad in pink, the walk was attended by men and women – patients, survivors, breast surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, nurses and the general public.
“Breast cancer is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in breast tissue. These cells can form a tumour that may be seen on a screening mammogram and ultrasound scan even before they can be felt as a lump. Currently, medical science doesn’t know exactly what causes the disease, therefore, early detection remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control,” says Dr Adnan Jabbar, an assistant professor and section head of medical oncology at the Aga Khan University (AKU).
“Although breast self-examination has limitations, it can be the first step to examine any developments in the breast, e.g., a new lump, swelling, an unusual pain or any change in the size, shape or skin of the breast. Such changes should be reported to a health professional immediately.
“Since the disease is increasing among young women in the country, women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years. After 40 years, they should have a breast exam and mammograms by a health professional every year. Doctors may also recommend breast ultrasound, MRI or biopsy, if needed,” he adds.
Dr Shaista Khan, a professor of surgery at AKU, warns that women were at greater risk than men. Key risk factors could be overweight, old age and the disease in the family.
“Women diagnosed with breast cancer can live healthy lives given the disease is diagnosed and treated timely. Treatment for early breast cancer usually involves surgery only or some combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
“AKUH’s Patient Welfare Programme and Patients’ Behbud Society for AKUH provide financial assistance to women who are fighting breast cancer and need support,” she adds.
While sharing her experiences, a survivor commented, “I am a proud mother, a wife and a breast cancer survivor. I am here to support those who are fighting the disease. Activities like this are always inspirational”.
AKUH’s CEO Hans Kedzierski also dressed in pink to show solidarity with breast cancer patients and survivors.
“We at AKUH have successfully established a breast cancer team, a multidisciplinary group of specialists, that offers comprehensive care under one roof – an advantage for our patients,” he said.
Other activities of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month included marking pink Fridays by wearing pink clothes or accessories, and organizing awareness sessions at AKUH as well as at educational and corporate institutions in the city.