KARACHI: Expressing concern over the high incidence of breast cancer in Pakistan, experts at an event held on Saturday called for changing lifestyle and creating public awareness about the disease diagnosis and treatment, emphasizing that early detection was the key to protection.
The programme was jointly organized by Himmel pharmaceuticals and the Karachi press club.
According to speakers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and Pakistan has the highest incidence of the disease in Asia.
“One out of eight Pakistani women develops breast cancer at some stage of her life while thousands of lives are lost to the disease every year. One of the major barriers to early diagnosis is lack of awareness and women’s shyness in discussing their health issues and going for any kind of breast examination,” said Prof Naila Zahid, head of oncology department at the Liaquat National Hospital.
Doctors say women below 40 can perform regular self-examinations while women above 40 should undergo regular mammography screening
The best way to fight this disease, she pointed out, was to perform monthly self-examination and look for signs and symptoms early on so that treatment could begin promptly, she added. “Women below age 40 should perform regular self-examinations and women above 40 should undergo regular mammography screening.”
About the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, she said it could be swelling of all or part of the breast, skin irritation or dimpling, breast pain, nipple pain or the nipple turning inward, redness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, a nipple discharge other than breast milk and a lump in the underarm area.
She rejected misconception about biopsy and said the procedure was important to have early diagnosis.
The risk factors, according to speakers, included getting older, genetic mutations, reproductive history, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases, delayed marriage, use of hormonal drugs and previous treatment using radiation therapy.
“We need to change our lifestyle. Today, we have a sedentary lifestyle, eating a lot of junk food, frozen and processed products. People need to have a healthy diet and lifestyle, which would help protect the body,” said Dr Adnan Abdul Jabbar, head of Ziauddin Hospital’s oncology department, emphasizing the need for mammography screening.
Replying to a question, he said breast cancer also affected men but their number was much less as compared to women.
Dr Roha Anees representing Himmel Pharmaceuticals also spoke.