1 - 7, 2010

Experts called for dedicated and consistent efforts of the government and NGOs to enhance awareness about cancer and to make preventive interventions accessible to the masses.

Cancer affects everyone the young and old, the rich and poor, men, women and children and represents a tremendous burden on patients, families, and societies while over 30% of all cancers can be prevented, they added.

Surgical Oncology Society Pakistan President and Director Research Center King Edward Medical University (KEMU) Professor Dr Muhammad Arshad Cheema said, "Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world, particularly in developing countries. As per World Health Organisation's data, at least 8 million people die every year due to the cancer all over the world, out of which 80% death occurs in third world countries."

Professor Arshad Cheema stressed the dire need of creating more and more awareness among the masses about this fatal disease, as mostly cancer patients come to the doctor when it is too late. Early diagnosis of cancer has ample chances of cure, he added. He disclosed that every year 40,000 women die in Pakistan due to breast cancer. 'If women feel a minor tumor in their breast or any physical change they should immediately contact the doctor for their check-up,' he said.

Another expert Professor Dr Zaffar Ali Chaudhry said that causes of mouth, throat, lung and intestinal cancer were due to smoking while Pan, Niswar, fatness, environmental pollution and unhygienic food were also causing gastric and abdominal cancer. According to him, tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world today. It causes 80-90% of all lung cancer deaths, and about 30% of all cancer deaths in developing countries including deaths from cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, oesophagus, and stomach.

Professor Sadaqat Ali said, "liver cancer is spreading very fast in Pakistan as Hepatitis B and C is very common in our society". He said that dietary modification was another important approach to cancer control. There is a link between overweight and obesity to many types of cancer such as oesophagus, colorectal, endometrium, etc.

"Diets high in fruits and vegetables may have a protective effect against many cancers. Conversely, excess consumption of red and preserved meat may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer," he said.

Nevertheless, healthy eating habits that prevent the development of diet-associated cancers will also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. He said that regular physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, would considerably reduce cancer risk.

Professor Arshad Cheema said that though the treatment facilities of cancer were available in government hospital but there should be all facilities under one roof so that cancer patients may not visit door to door for their treatment.

Professor Arif Tajjamal of Jinnah Hospital Lahore said, cervical cancer is the cancerous tumor of the cervix and is a life-threatening condition. "The risks of cervical cancer begin with sexual debut and can last throughout a women's lifetime. Being the second most common cancer in women, globally, the disease accounts for a women dying every 2 minutes," pointed out Tajjamal.

Cervical cancer is not a hereditary disease and is caused by HPV which is transmitted through genital skin-to-skin contact, explained Tajjamal. "An estimated 80% percent cervical cancer fatalities occur in the developing world mainly because of 60-80 pre cent of the cases are reported at very late stages," he elaborated. Most women who die from cervical cancer are in the prime of their life, at a time when they bear major family and economic responsibilities, he grieved.

Professor Farukh Zaman of Hamid Latif Hospital Lahore discussed the social and emotional consequences of cervical cancer. He said, "We give a lot of importance to accessories, dresses and jewelry, its about time that we enlarge our focus and consider the things that last beyond the happiness of a single day," Zaman emphasized.

Giving example of breast cancer awareness campaigns, he said, "Subsequent to increased initiatives in the field of breast cancer, a sizable portion of our population is aware of its increasing incidence and complications. This awareness has led to increased screening and adoption of preventive methods". Zaman demanded that its time the 2nd most common form of cancer amongst women be given due importance to help prevent fatalities. "Cervical cancer is preventable through proper vaccination so I feel it is a great injustice to let even single women die of an illness which a simple interventions such as vaccine could prevent."