The month of October is an opportunity to increase awareness about the impact of breast cancer. In this regard, an awareness session was organized at Higher Education Commission (HEC) Secretariat to educate women employees about the importance of self-care, early detection and regular screening for this disease.

Executive Director HEC Dr Shaista Sohail was chief guest on the occasion. Dr Kiran Riaz, Specialist Pathology, PIMS Hospital Islamabad, Director General (Scholarships) HEC Ms Aayesha Ikram and female staff of HEC attended the session.

In her remarks, Dr Shaista Sohail termed the session as a significant step to spread awareness because the health and well-being of employees, their families and community are of paramount importance when it comes to HEC’s social responsibilities. She reminded the participants that we can take preventive measures by following the guiding principles from the Holy Quran as it gives us the most viable solutions to our daily life. She emphasized that adopting a healthy lifestyle and cleanliness is key to prevention from many diseases.

Dr Kiran Riaz apprised the audience that one out of eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer and mortality rate is high in South Asian countries as compared to the western countries. She said that preventing cancer is kind of a big deal because no fear and no apprehension could change the test results. She highlighted the importance of self-screening and regular clinical check-ups after every three years from age of 20 to 40 and annual screening for the woman age above 40.

She described myth breaking facts regarding breast cancer i.e., it can erupt at very early age of 20, radiotherapy does not spread the cancer and patients can survive even at stage-3. She insisted on choosing healthy diets enriched with protein and food containing antioxidants. She expanded the horizon of the session by presenting a demo for self-screening at home by inviting a volunteer from the participants.

She also informed the audience that at PIMS hospital, a toll-free number 0213-873-7373 for Breast cancer related issues is active where women and men can seek help regarding multifarious challenges regarding breast cancer. The helpline provides a secure and credible gateway for women to ask questions and access information related to diagnosis and treatments related challenges. “At PIMS, more advanced diagnostic and cancer treatment facilities are available where mammography and other initial screening tests are done free of cost.”

Ms Aayesha Ikram emphasized that despite having busy schedule at jobs, all women must take out time for self-care and taking preventive measures. She stressed the need to make the right choices for a healthy life.

A breast cancer survivor was also invited to share her experience. She narrated the challenges and successes of her diagnosis and treatment. She advised the women to seek support from people around them as support lessen the pain during this journey.

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Arsalan Haider is a reporter at Academia Mag and has worked with leading national dailies and news channels. He tweets @arsalanhaider14

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