Breast cancer is a life-threatening disease that women in Pakistan have been battling for years.
While the topic is considered taboo in society, we are here with all the facts and information you need about breast cancer and its awareness campaigns so you can educate yourself and others around you.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Every year, October serves as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, globally. Throughout the month seminars, conferences, and events are held to bring awareness to the general public about the disease and how it can be prevented.
As a part of the month-long campaign, October 13 is recognized in the United States as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, while National Mammography Day (Mammogram is a test to detect breast cancer) is celebrated on the 3rd Friday of October.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in females due to abnormal and rapid growth of cells in the breast. Breast cancer has different types, depending on which type of cells turn into cancer.
It is the 3rd most common cancer in Pakistan and 64% of patients suffering from the disease do not make it.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US, here are some symptoms of breast cancer:
- New lump in breast, underarm (armpit)
- Thickening, swelling, pain
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Flaky skin, redness in the breast, nipple area
- Pulling in the nipple
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- Change in size or shape of the breast
Breast Cancer Types
Below are types of breast cancer based on how far cancer has spread in the area:
- In-Situ Breast Cancer: is a pre-cancer stage that starts in the milk duct and has not grown to other tissues of the area.
- Invasive Breast Cancer: it is cancer that has spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Early Detection and Prevention
Women can start with an inspection at home where they can check for any abnormalities and lumps forming around the area.
The American Cancer Society has claimed that in the localized stage when breast cancer is detected early, the 5-year relative survival rate is a promising 99% high.
Early detection involves monthly self-exams and scheduling regular clinical visits and mammograms. Through early detection, breast cancer treatment becomes more effective and can greatly decrease death rates.
According to Prof Dr. Thomas Iftner, a virologist from Germany, 1 shot of the human papillomavirus vaccine to girls, 9-15 years of age, can help save precious lives in Pakistan.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, here are some tips to minimize the risk:
- Prioritize physical fitness
- Eat vegetables and fruits
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking
Early Detection Tips
- Self-examination at home
- Check for any pains, tenderness, or lumps
- Consider regular checkups for professional help
Breast Cancer Awareness in Pakistan
Like in other countries breast cancer awareness events also take place in Pakistan. From universities to health care organizations, people come together from all walks of life to show their support and to shed light on the matter.
The Pink Ribbon
Working in Pakistan since 2004, Pink Ribbon is dedicated to working on the issue of breast cancer with a nationwide outreach. It is a non-funded, self-sustained, and the only organization in the country working on the awareness of breast cancer.
They have taught early detection strategies of breast cancer to around 20,035,000 women so far and have performed mammograms on 37000 underprivileged women.
Every October they organize events to raise awareness and highlight the importance of early detection and treatment.
The pink ribbon symbol you see, being used during campaigns, is a universal symbol of breast cancer. The breast cancer ribbon represents the cause, awareness, and the need to bring women together.
President of Pakistan Speaks About Breast Cancer Awareness
Recently the President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, sent letters addressing the prime minister, parliamentarians, ministers, the media, and governors, soliciting their support to raise awareness of breast cancer.
He expressed his concerns about the disease and stressed the importance of self-examination and early diagnosis. He focused on flood-affected women and remedies to cater to their special needs.
Previously while addressing a session on breast cancer at a college in Islamabad, the first lady Samina Alvi talked about her awareness drive about breast cancer across the country and urged women to spread the message to at least 10 women in their social circle.
She also urged male members of the family to realize the severity of the matter and to support women so they can seek proper medical care.
This year, as a part of the breats cancer prevention campaign, a public service message can be heard on mobiles while making calls. That serves as a guide to breast cancer detection and prevention in the country.
Through Awareness, We Can Fight Breast Cancer
In Pakistan, every 13 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and the mortality rate is as high as an alarming 64%. Early detection and prevention is the only option to save valuable lives.
As a responsible citizen, make sure to educate the underprivileged around you and spread the word when you see campaigns on the matter.
Also, try to participate in events dedicated to breast cancer awareness so you can support it.
Pakistan has an underdeveloped healthcare system but through continuous efforts, we can change that and empower our women to fight the hard battle against breast cancer.