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Breast Cancer: Pakistan’s Looming Epidemic

Dr. Shazia Riaz

2 min read

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Breast cancer in Pakistan is more like an epidemic as we have the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia. According to an estimate by top oncologists, every 9th women is at the risk of developing the malignancy at some point in their lives. According to a report, there are 90,000 cases of breast cancer in Pakistan every year, and around 40,000 deaths caused by it.

Unfortunately, a lot of cultural and societal myths and misconceptions prevail regarding the issue of breast cancer which results in a high death rate. Most women report at stages III and IV, thereby slimming their chances of survival. Fortunately, breast cancer can be detected at an early stage and save many lives.

When compared with other types of cancer, breast cancer has a 90% chance of recovery if reported at an early stage of the disease. One of the most common signs and symptoms of breast cancer is a lump or mass. Potential breast cancer lumps can be soft, tender, rounded and even hurt. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Nipple or breast pain
  • Breast swelling on all or part of it
  • Skin irritation and /or dimpling
  • Redness or thickening of the nipple or breast tissue
  • Nipple retraction (inward nipple)
  • Nipple discharge that is not breast milk

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to consult top oncologists. Though these signs may be caused by a condition other than breast cancer, they must be reported to a doctor.

Types of Cancer:

Usually, when the doctor makes a diagnosis, that tells you the type of cancer you have. The majority of the lumps are at first a benign (non-cancerous) stage. Breast cancer diagnosis may fall into three categories: Non-invasive breast cancer, primary breast cancer or secondary breast cancer.

Non-invasive cancers are cancerous modifications that happen within the breast lobules or ducts; known respectively as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) or Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS).

Primary Breast Cancer is a type of invasive breast cancer that grows outside the lobules and breast ducts and spreads to the surrounding tissue.

Secondary Breast Cancer or “metastatic breast cancer” is when cancerous cell spread away from the “primary site” to other parts of the body starting with the lymph nodes under the armpits and then to other body parts such as bones, brain, lungs and the liver. Secondary breast cancer is sometimes diagnosed after the initial diagnosis, though it may be diagnosed at the same time as primary breast cancer.

Unfortunately, once cancer spreads throughout the body, it can’t be cured. Consequently, cancer spreading throughout the body is the main cause of death from breast cancer. Treatments for secondary breast cancer serve to keep cancer under control and to extend a good quality of life as much as possible.

If we talk about the treatment of breast cancer in Pakistan, it depends upon the type of cancer. Someone with primary stage breast cancer may be treated with surgery to remove cancerous tissues from the breast. The type of surgery depends upon the type of cancer and the stage and location of the tumor.

Someone who has secondary breast cancer may receive anti-hormone therapy (such as tamoxifen), chemotherapy, radiotherapy or targeted treatments such as Herceptin. In order to see if these treatments will work for you, contact a breast surgeon in Islamabad as soon as possible.

There are ample treatment methods, but due to the lack of social awareness and cultural taboos, treating breast cancer in Pakistan is a big challenge, as people shy away from discussing this in public.

Screening and early detection of breast cancer is a major step toward rehabilitation. Increasing awareness regarding the disease and reducing the stigma, along with integrating knowledge about the signs and symptoms of the disease can bear fruitful efforts.

Women who are older (postmenopausal or above 40), have a family history of breast cancer or are genetically predisposed to “cancer genes” (BRCA1 and BRCA2) must go for frequent mammograms– screening tests for breast cancer for early detection of the disease.

Remember, early detection can save lives. Fasten your pink ribbon and get ready to fight!

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of breast cancer, you should visit an oncologist at your earliest. At oladoc, you can find the best oncologists in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad and book confirmed appointment. Moreover,  you can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 to seek an appointment with the best doctor.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Shazia Riaz - Author Dr. Shazia Riaz is among the Best Pediatric Hematologists in Lahore. Dr. Shazia Riaz is a Pediatric Hematologist practicing in Lahore. She treats medical conditions like cancer, brain tumor, leukemia, and others. You can book an appointment with Dr. Shazia Riaz through oladoc.com.

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