CONSIDER the implications of the following statistic: no less than 70pc of Pakistani women suffering from breast cancer seek medical attention at an advanced stage of the disease. If detected at an early stage, the chances of the survival exceed 90pc. But too many women play Russian roulette with their lives if they are afflicted with this dreaded disease. There are several reasons for this: lack of awareness about symptoms; limited access to mammogram facilities; fear that the treatment will result in ‘diminished femininity’ that will drive their husbands away; and social stigma surrounding the disease. There is thus a dire need to have a more open discussion about breast cancer, which makes the prospect of a forthcoming web series on this very subject welcome news indeed. Scheduled to start in April, the series has been written by Haseena Moin, a breast cancer survivor herself, and aims to address the stigma associated with the disease. It depicts how a woman’s family, particularly her husband, can be a source of strength and support for her in her battle against breast cancer.

The statistics are frightening. Every year, some 90,000 cases of breast cancer are detected in Pakistan, the highest rate in all of Asia. Sadly, about 40,000 of these patients will die. One in nine women either has breast cancer or is at risk of developing it. In the rural areas, there is even more stigma surrounding the issue, and female gynaecologists are not always easily available. Moreover, while the average age worldwide of breast cancer patients is 55 years, the median age in Pakistan is 35 years, which is a truly alarming gap. It makes sense for us to strip away the misconceptions and stigma surrounding the disease and make an honest appraisal of how our attitudes are putting so many lives at risk. Tackling the subject through a web series is a sound approach; and with Ms Moin’s proven gift for storytelling, the venture is likely to be a memorable one.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2021

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