Did you know: One in every nine women in Pakistan has a lifetime risk of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, making it the Asian nation with the highest incidence rate. 89% of breast cancer patients in Pakistan are diagnosed in the late stage and 59% at an advanced stage – Latest Research on Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the main reason why women die from cancer worldwide. 2.1 million new cases and 627,000 fatalities were reported in 2018. One in every nine women in Pakistan has a lifetime risk of receiving a diagnosis, making it the Asian nation with the highest incidence rate.
Due to low rates of early detection and socioeconomic conditions, Pakistani women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at advanced stages, which decreases their odds of survival. Early detection is crucial in order to minimize the risks.
Mahira Khan shed light on Breast Cancer Awareness as she addressed issues surrounding Breast cancer awareness & detection in Pakistan. She spoke with Independent Urdu. “It’s been 10 years since I have been working with Shaukat Khanum Memorial hospital for breast cancer awareness.”
She went on to share the positives in her journey of 10 years, that women & young girls today are more aware about detection, symptoms, awareness of breast cancer. However, their ability to address the issue without feeling uncomfortable before the male members of their family is critical to the early detection of the disease.
“It’s also very important for the men in our family to talk about it openly. The problem really arises when women can’t speak because they are afraid of what their husbands, brothers, and their sons might think.”
“It’s very important for people in Pakistan to realize that one out of every nine women in the country is affected by it. That’s a very big number. I think it’s imperative for everyone to talk about this. We should raise awareness about the disease. It’s also very important for the men in our family to talk about it openly. The problem really arises when women can’t speak because they are afraid of what their husbands, brothers, and their sons might think.”
She concluded, “This is the kind of cancer that is curable if diagnosed in the early stages. You can come out of it. So, early detection is very important as well. I have said it before, and I am saying it again: self-examination is the key. You have everything at your fingertips. Educate yourself. Be aware.”
“There’s more awareness now. People talk about breast cancer. Do you know, earlier people wouldn’t even talk about this because there’s a certain shame attached to breast cancer? They were irked by the word breast itself. They used to feel shame. This is an issue we have faced time and again. The shame. I want to ask the reason – breast is just another body part.”
The Implications of Breast Cancer Being Taboo
In Pakistan, some women do not share their health issues with others and are too shy to go for any kind of breast examination, according to research by Shaukat Khanum Cancer Research Centre.
Breast cancer specialist at Islamabad Polyclinic hospital Erum Khan disclosed that Pakistan’s patriarchal culture and taboos over women’s bodies were primary factors behind late breast cancer diagnosis.
Breast Cancer in Pakistan – A Whole New Ball Game:
She went on to reveal that some women are taunted when they seek diagnosis and treatment.
In one instance, a patient was driven to tears explaining how her husband said she had “become a man” after her breasts were removed in life-saving surgery.
“Married women think that if their husbands learn about this disease, they might marry another woman,” Pakistani women’s rights activist Mukhtaran Mai explained.
“The unmarried believe just going to seek diagnosis could scupper their chance of finding a man,” she added.
According to a study published in the online database BMC Women’s Health, women in Pakistan are more likely to feel stigmatized when seeking early treatment, especially in cases when dealing with male doctors would be the only option.
The study also cited age, employment status, lack of awareness, fear of surgery, and belief in traditional treatments, and spiritual healing as contributing factors.
As a result, 89% of breast cancer patients in Pakistan are diagnosed in the late stage and 59% at an advanced stage, the study said.
Khan said recruitment of more female breast cancer specialists, more awareness campaigns at female colleges and training of gynaecologists and female health workers are all needed to help more women in Pakistan survive breast cancer.
Khan added that there is also a misconception among women that surgery is the only option when diagnosed with this cancer.
Many do not know that, in the first and second stages, surgery may not be needed at all, she said.
According to a study on breast cancer in Pakistan cited in the journal Cancer Management and Research, Pakistani women “wasted time” using alternative medicine, ignored painless lumps in the breast, and would delay seeking treatment because they consider the breast a “secret organ.” (Source: DW Magazine)
Leave a Reply