RAWALPINDI: National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) joined the nation in creating awareness about breast cancer which some reports say, affects 90,000 women in Pakistan every year and kills 40,000 of them, which can be prevented through early diagnosis.
“It is tragic that so many women die from a disease that is treatable — especially if detected early — simply because they were embarrassed to discuss it with doctors or any of their family member or friends,” said Dr. Rida Fatima Saeed and Dr. Shaista Aslam, Assistant Professors, Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) NUMS, who have been spearheading an awareness campaign during the month by holding a webinar, awareness walk and informal group discussion at the university.
October has been declared as “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” across the globe to highlight the disease and encourage women to consult doctors if they sense any abnormality in their breasts. WHO put the world-wide death toll of cancer to 685,000 in last year while 2.3 million women were diagnosed with it, Dr Aslam said.
Early detection of breast cancer is vital as it may increase available treatment options, chances of survival, and improve quality of life. According to the latest figures, one in nine women in Pakistan either has breast cancer or is at risk of developing it, said Dr. Rida. She added that Pakistan has the highest number of cancer patients in Asia and while the average worldwide age of breast cancer patients is 55 years, the median age in Pakistan is 35 years, which is a truly alarming statistic
NUMS organized a Breast Cancer Awareness webinar and a special walk here at its PWD Campus on Thursday to discuss various aspects of the disease and to create awareness about screening option to help diagnose cancer at an early stage while it is curable.
Dr. Ayesha Isani Majeed, Head of the Radiology Department at Pakistan Institute for Medical Sciences (PIMS) apprised the audience of the free screening services available for women at the Federal Breast Cancer Screening Center at PIMS and emphasized the importance of self-examination of the breast and yearly mammograms for women over 40.
Dr Sehar Iqbal, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, NUMS highlighted the role of a healthy diet in reducing the chances of developing breast cancer. Dr. Uzma Hassan, Professor Public Health, NUMS talked about the public health and preventative aspects of the disease.
After the webinar the participants joined hands and went round the university campus at PWD while wearing pink ribbons to mark breast cancer awareness. NUMS also set up a special desk in its cafe where cancer awareness pamphlets were distributed and a questionnaire was also prepared for female staff and students who were requested to fill it.
“ There is an immediate need to explore the genetic basis of breast cancer in the Pakistani population and to identify more effective and less toxic therapeutic and preventive strategies,”, said, Dr. Nosheen Akhtar, Assistant Professor DBS NUMS.
Dr. Akhtar is working on different projects to increase understanding of the biological nature of breast cancer in Pakistan and to identify new therapeutic agents.”. NUMS scientists are also focusing on the identification of novel therapeutic agents for the disease, she added.