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Importance of Breast Cancer Awareness in Pakistan

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We see the pink ribbon popping up everywhere in October as it is celebrated all around the world as breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer awareness is very important especially in Pakistan where mortality ratio due to breast cancer is the highest among all Asian countries. Unfortunately, breast cancer is not a topic of serious discussion in Pakistan owing to the stigmas related to it. It is one of the most common malignancies among women affecting approximately 77 percent females over the age of 50.

In Pakistan, it is estimated that more than 83,000 cases of breast cancer are reported each year. Every year, about 40,000 women die as a result of this devastating condition. Every woman should get a mammogram and physical exam by a doctor every two years from the age of 40. Self-examination for a lump or abnormality in the breast can play an important role in early detection of the disease. Thousands of women die each year due to lack of awareness as many do not talk about their health issue. They are hesitant and shy to have any type of breast examination due to cultural norms and values.

There has been a surprising increase in awareness about the disease in Pakistan’s metropolitan areas, where literacy rate is higher and better health facilities are available. But nothing seems to have changed for rural areas, where people rely on understaffed and ill-equipped dispensaries or primary health units – for their medical needs. Pakistan Government has taken initiatives to start an awareness campaign via SMS, recorded messages over phones, and displaying the color pink on public and private buildings.

For the early detection of new cases, the government should undertake a nationwide free screening campaign especially in underserved areas of Pakistan. To encourage more females to avail screening services, government should arrange screening services by female doctors and lady health workers.

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