Joining forces to remove ‘breast cancer stigmatisation’ | By Mehr Jan

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Joining forces to remove ‘breast cancer stigmatisation’


AS per latest statistics, breast cancer is growing rapidly as 1.38 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed annually in Pakistan out of which 0.458 million women die every year.

This alarming number suggests that Pakistan is currently holding the highest rate of breast cancer among Asian countries.

Breast cancer, the name itself instills fear and is the second most common cancer in the world.

But when it comes to Pakistan, it is far more concerning as the survival rates are relatively low as compared to Western European countries and one of the major reasons is lack of awareness. October is marked as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A time when the whole nation must join hands in ensuring the social taboo relating to this disease is addressed, allowing not just women but their families to gain complete insight over the importance of early diagnosis.

As it turns out the major cause of concern is that women of this nation tend to approach health care only at the last stage.

Be it due to socio-economic concerns, lack of knowledge or fear and embarrassment towards getting an early checkup, these may very well relate to the disease taking a fatal turn.

In Pakistan, 89% of breast cancer patients are diagnosed at a later stage. This is especially true for cases coming forth from the rural region.

While the numbers are still staggering, there has been significant improvement when it comes to giving women the nudge to go for early examination or at the very least adapt the simplistic self-care regime right at home. The government campaign is committed to ensuring women wellness is the key focus.

This means committing to a range of activities which emphasize the importance of self-screening.

Early detection can save your life. It is critical for the whole nation to come together and shun the taboo association to this disease.

The media has been running effective campaigns, bringing in the likes of well-known personalities and iconic figures to stress upon the need to make your health a priority.

50 thousand women out of 100,000 will lose their lives to this horrifying illness, only because of a late diagnosis. But that is preventable only if the diagnosis is done sooner.

Health experts suggest that women should be getting regular examinations from the age of 20 and it is of high importance to get a mammogram done every year from the age of 40.

Pakistan is home to a range of screening centres, which are putting in efforts to distribute pamphlets and intensify knowledge on preventing the complications relating to breast cancer.

It is now needed more than ever for the whole country to join forces and remove the existing stigmatization and the pertaining feminine sensitivity which is limiting women stepping outside and getting examined.

However, with the consistent efforts by individual campaigns as well as government-led projects is giving the needed nudge to allow women to make their health a priority and invest a little time in themselves, where a simple self-check may very well be the act that saves your life.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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