KARACHI: An estimated 50,000 women die of breast cancer every year in Pakistan — which has the highest rate of this cancer in Asia and reports 90,000 new cases of the disease annually, shared an expert at a seminar held at Karachi University (KU) on Wednesday.

The university had organised the event in collaboration with the Pink Pakistan Trust (PPT).

“There has been a 30 per cent reduction in breast cancer cases worldwide due to increased public awareness and early detection. In Pakistan and some other countries in Asia, however, the disease is rapidly growing, mainly due to lack of awareness and cancer diagnostic facilities,” said Dr Zubaida Qazi, the founder and president of PPT.

At some stage of life, one in nine women in Pakistan develops breast cancer, she added.

According to her, women constitute country’s 49pc population. Of them, three million women aged 40 to 45 are more vulnerable to the disease.

“Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer. In Pakistan, we are seeing even young women presenting with an advanced stage breast cancer, which has a negative effect on prognosis,” she explained, while sharing data of WHO and other organisations about the number of breast cancer cases in Pakistan.

Other cancers in women

Dr Qazi also raised concern about the growing incidence of other types of cancers in Pakistani women and emphasised the need for awareness and setting up facilities for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“We are also seeing cases of cervical, ovarian and uterine cancers in both urban and rural women. Unfortunately, there is an acute shortage of screening centres in Pakistan to diagnose various types of cancers,” she said, adding that family history of the disease was a major risk factor for breast cancer.

In her speech, Sindh Minister for Women’s Development Syeda Shehla Raza underscored the need for public awareness, urging families to take breast cancer awareness campaign seriously.

She advised women to get their tests done periodically as the disease could be effectively controlled only with timely diagnosis.

“We have to play our part collectively in raising awareness about breast cancer. Otherwise, we will not be able to overcome these public health challenges,” she said, urging affected women not to feel ashamed of disease’s signs and symptoms and seek immediate medical care.

KU acting Vice Chancellor Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi highlighted the role universities could play in public health.

Dr Fariya Usman of PPT, Dr Kausar Abbas of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and Dr Sadaf Nasir of Liaquat National Hospital also spoke.

Earlier, the minister along with KU VC and other guests inaugurated breast cancer awareness centre on the campus.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020

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