ISLAMABAD: A nationwide breast cancer campaign aimed at raising awareness about the killer disease among young women was launched in the country on Tuesday.
The launching ceremony of Pinktober 2013, a one-month drive, was held at the National Press Club and is part of global efforts in which every year in October, a month designated for this cause, massive campaigns are held to sensitise the public about the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. People don pink ribbons to show solidarity with patients suffering from the disease.
“In Pakistan, recent trends have shown that breast cancer is increasing at an alarming rate among women aged 18 to 22,” said Pink Ribbon Campaign CEO Omer Aftab. While talking to The Express Tribune, Aftab said that according to three-year data collected from the Free National Breast Screening Programme in 12 cities across the country in collaboration with 14 Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission cancer hospitals, a 50 per cent increase in the number of breast cancer cases among young women has been witnessed.
On the national scale, the percentage could be twice as much as there are many young girls who do not go to a doctor due to fear or unawareness, Aftab stated. A number of women, especially older than 40, also suffer as they do not visit doctors to check for the disease and miss a chance to stem it before it’s too late, he added. “It is shocking that there are rural women who after finding a lump in their breasts go to a quack or a hairdresser to cut it out as they consider it a pox.”
Aftab said Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia and its prevalence in the country is highest among all the cancers in the country — a staggering 38 per cent. 1 out of 9 women in the country are at risk of contracting the disease and 40,000 die of it every year. “It is unfortunate that despite these alarming numbers, not much is done to spread awareness about the disease.”
While sharing the challenges in combatting breast cancer, he said Pakistan has to overcome countless barriers such as illiteracy, misconceptions, social stigma and lack of medical and infrastructure facility.
“It is the right of every woman to know about fatal diseases and society should support their cause rather than considering the issue a social taboo,” he added.