PRESIDENT Arif Alvi launched a month long campaign on Friday to raise awareness about breast cancer, emphasising no stigma be attached to the disease and that the women should do regular self-examination for early diagnosis of the disease.
Firstly, the way President Arif Alvi and First Lady Samina Alvi have relentlessly taken forward this breast awareness campaign forward over the last three years is really unprecedented and commendable. They indeed are leading from front to save our sisters and mothers from this fatal disease.
Their strategy of contacting different segments of the society including the students in colleges indeed is the way forward to reverse the current trends of the disease which is currently more common in our young females, in contrast to the West, where it occurs after the age of sixty years, on average.
The age-related incidence rate of breast cancer affecting Pakistani females is almost 50.1/100,000 per year.
Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia, as approximately 90,000 women are diagnosed with the disease every year out of whom 40,000 pass away. The probability is that one out of every nine Pakistani women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
Most of our population lives in rural areas that are lacking in basic necessities such as hospitals, education systems, transport, purified drinking water, hygienic conditions and trained and qualified healthcare providers.
Therefore, the chances of delayed diagnosis are higher in rural than in urban population. One of the roots of the problem is the existence of stigma and financial constraints, representing social and economic barriers to the timely diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer patients.
Early diagnosis and early recognition of breast symptoms in primary healthcare, along with an accessible and affordable referral path for care, can save lives; it is the most powerful and validated way to impact on the population with a reasonable investment in public health.
In our view one-stop breast cancer clinics aimed at addressing financial, cultural, mental and physical needs of women, under one roof can go a long way to help break the stigma surrounding the disease.