No tangible steps on the card despite Pakistan has highest incidence of breast cancer in Asia

Hamid Ullah

ISLAMABAD: It what seems to be a matter of great concern, no government has ever paid any heed to deal with the menace of Breast Cancer despite being one of the major killers in Pakistan. 

Pakistan alone has the highest rate of Breast Cancer than any other Asian Country; as one in every nine women suffers from Breast Cancer and approximately 90,000 new cases are diagnosed every year out of which 40,000 die.

However, ironically despite such an alarming situation, no tangible steps have ever been taken to rein in the rising trend of the disease except mere observing October a Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as it could be judged from the fact that there is only one breast cancer screening center in public sector hospital across the country.

The government had a plan back in 2005 to establish five breast cancer screening centers one each in the federal capital and the provinces; however the plan could not be materialized, as only one center has been built at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).

At present, only Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in Lahore and Karachi’s Agha Khan Hospital provided one-stop breast cancer clinic once or twice a week.

Breast cancer curable if detected at an early stage: Dr. Ayesha

Dr. Ayesha Isani Majeed

Talking to this scribe, Dr. Ayesha Isani Majeed, Deputy Project Director FBCSP, Associate Professor of Radiology PIMS, said that the establishment of a “One Stop Breast Clinic” was the answer to the cultural, financial, mental and physical needs of the women of Pakistan.

She said that the institute at PIMS has a dedicated all-female staff for diagnosis and treatment as women hesitate to undergo an examination under the supervision of male staff.

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Dr. Ayesha further elaborated that this is the first breast cancer centre of the country as other cancer centres deal will all kind of cancers, adding that though breast cancer claims a lot of lives, it is curable if detected at an early stage.

She said that the project was initially started under the ministry of Health in 2009 with an allocation of Rs. 421 million; however in post devolution, in CDWP meeting held in 2012, the PC-1 of the project was revised to Rs. 225 million and was handed over to the recently-dissolved CADD ministry.

The project was handed over to PIMS in 2013 and work was started in the financial year 2014-15 and completed the project by June 30, 2017, she added.

Dr. Ayesha said that it’s a great project of the government; however it would not have been possible without the support and help of many individuals especially Professor Javed Akram the then Vice Chancellor Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University.

She said that a total of over 5000 patients were screened and examined in the Breast Cancer Screening center at PIMS during the last three years.

“Here a triple assessment by a Surgeon, Radiologist and Pathologist is performed under one roof and in a single visit by the patient,” she added.

She said that it is a must to develop a liaison between the women seen at Basic Health Units (BHU) and Rural Health Centers (RHC) and the Breast Cancer Center at PIMS.

She said that awareness programmes were launched in BHUs, RHCs, Model Girls Schools, Colleges and Universities of Islamabad.

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A data obtained from the hospital showed that a total of field visits of Federal Breast Cancer Screening Programme in BHU / RHCS of Islamabad Capital Territory were 54 so far and also covered Schools, Colleges and Universities of Islamabad during which a total of 280 LHWS were trained in BHU and RHC.

The center has ultrasound with Elastography software; Mammography machine for general screening purposes and Digital Mammography machine with computed tomography and stereotactic biopsy.

The data showed that a total of 3200 mammography; 1593 Ultrasounds; 67 Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology’s (FNAC) and 243 Biopsies were done in the federal Breast Cancer Screening Center hitherto.

During this period, a total of 300 patients were detected with CA Breast out of the 3086 mammograms performed in addition to the recurrent cases.

Dr. Ayesha said that there is need to promote health education by awareness programmes through media, walks, seminars, group discussions and patient counseling facilities, besides providing staff to the facility as the menace of Breast Cancer could be contained in Pakistan by early detection, diagnosis and evaluation.

She said that Federal Breast Cancer Screening Centre should be made a role model and such centers be set up in different districts of Pakistan so that this lethal disease is eradicated at grass root level.