KARACHI: Breast cancer has been spreading in Pakistan at an alarming rate. In fact, Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer prevalence in Asia.
This was disclosed at the launch of Pink Ribbon’s Karachi chapter. The event featured tables bedecked with pink and white roses and Alicia Dias crooning ABBA’s ‘Chiquitita’.
Pink Ribbon chief executive officer Omer Aftab said he first launched this organisation in 2004, when a female colleague of his was suffering from this disease and he tried to help her set up a project. Though the colleague lost her life in 2007, Aftab carried on the torch.
A cause of concern is our lifestyle and eating habits, he pointed out, explaining that girls as young as 18 years of age were fighting breast cancer in Pakistan, whereas the average age when most women are susceptible to breast cancer is 35 years.
“I have been extensively running awareness campaigns across the country since 2004 and now, with the birth of the Karachi chapter, I would like to announce the setting up of breast cancer hospital in Lahore on Ferozpur Road,” said Aftab. The foundation stone of the hospital is to be laid on the first of Ramazan this year.
“Karachi is a big city and we need to reach out more people,” he said, explaining the reason for establishing Pink Ribbon’s Karachi chapter.
“Breast cancer is one disease that has a factor of taboo attached to it, as there is the ‘B’ word, which can’t be spoken about,” he lamented, adding that there is also a factor of women’s sexuality associated with it. “That shouldn’t be the case, at least not amongst the educated members of society,” said Aftab.
“Women come to us when they are at stage three and they fight to survive this disease but if detected early, they can beat it,” he said.
“Yearly, I receive as many as 800 new breast cancer patients at my clinic. If they come at an earlier stage there are better chances of survival,” said Dr Rufina Soomro, head of surgery at Liaquat National Hospital. She launched a breast examination clinic at Liaquat National Hospital in 1994.
Dr Soomro has also been working for the campaign, including filming videos regarding the disease with PTV about 20 years back, however the censor board did not allow it to run on national television, she said.
She said, she had been treating women coming from rural Sindh, southern Punjab and scattered parts of Balochistan. “The highest number of breast cancer cases being reported in Asia are actually from Pakistan,” she told participants of the event.
Dr Soomro highlighted the fact that if women take 15 minutes to give themselves breast exams every month, there are much higher chances of them beating the disease.
A breast cancer survivor, Mariyam Malik, narrated her tale of courage and fighting this deadly disease, terming it an ’emotional roller-coaster ride and hell for her family’. The key factor lies in detecting it early and rushing for treatment, she said.
“I am motivated by Omer Aftab’s big vision and big dream. Just the thought about this disease is alarming but early detection and treatment can cure it,” said Mehnaz Karamat, president of Pink Ribbon’s Karachi chapter.