July 16 - 22, 2007

Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer for any Asian population accounting to around 40,000 deaths every year while approximately 1 out of 9 Pakistani women will suffer from breast cancer. Around 43-percent of cancer cases can be prevented through healthy lifestyles established in childhood, said Dr. Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, President Pakistan Society of Family Physicians, while talking to PAGE.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) survey, around 7.6 million people died of cancer in 2006 and close to 11 million new cases are diagnosed every year. Pink Ribbon National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Pakistan had recently launched the Pink Ribbon Youth Awareness Programme aimed at 300 Higher Education Campaign (HEC)'s recognized girls colleges and universities across Pakistan.

For more than 10 years, the Pink Ribbon is an international symbol of support for breast cancer awareness. Every year in October, citizens are urged to wear pink ribbons in honor of women who are now courageously fighting the battle with breast cancer. According to Omer Aftab, Coordinator of National Pink Ribbon Campaign, recent studies have shown that teenaged girls are also prone to be hit by breast cancer. Due to lacking knowledge, no one ever suspects deadly disease of cancer in a young girl, he added. More and more cases of cancer are being reported in various hospitals and disturbing fact is that girls younger ages are also becoming victims of this deadly disease, he added.

'In the past, we came across breast cancer among middle-aged women. But today even girls in their 20s and 30s are getting this ailment', he pointed out. Generally, obese women of above 40 years, those who may have borne children at later age or those who may be avoiding breast-feeding their babies are at high risk of developing this disease, Dr. Irfan said.

He said that eating a healthy diet, avoiding obesity, learning about vaccines for virus-related liver and cervical cancers and avoiding over-exposure to the sun are necessary to avoid cancer. "Cancer strikes all segments of society in every country and the first steps toward prevention are education and action."

With early diagnosis, a patient's chance of surviving breast cancer is higher than 90%, he said, adding, a two minute breast self examination can protect females from this most horrifying nightmare. Moreover, in a bid to facilitate the cancer patients from Sindh and Balochistan provinces, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) recently established a 'Walk-in-Clinic' at PECHS, Shahrah-e-Faisal, Karachi.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, CEO of the hospital said this would help a large number of cancer patients coming to Lahore from Karachi, interior Sindh and Balochistan who have to travel long distance at great physical and monetary expense for a proper diagnose and subsequent treatment. He said SKMCH&RC was undertaking new high profile projects like full fledge research centre, setting up a bone marrow transplant centre which has already started successful operation by the grace of God. He said: ''We have already opened a similar Walk-in-Clinic at Peshawar where patients from NWFP are receiving diagnostic and treatment facilities at an early stage''. Dr. Faisal Sultan said that the clinic at Karachi was a first step, while a fully functional state-of-the-art diagnostic centre would be established very soon, which would be followed by a full fledge Hospital, benefiting patients from Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

He also said that the annual budget of the hospital has reached Rs. 1.6 billion, out of which half is generated by the hospital and rest is received from the well-wishers of the hospital in the shape of Zakat and donations. A huge amount of Rs. 4 billion has already been spent on treatment of cancer patients, he informed.