Pakistan is the 7th populous country with estimated cancer incidence of 148,041 new cases. About 150,000 Pakistanis are diagnosed yearly with cancer. 101,113 cancer related deaths (48,449 Men & 52,664 Women), and a prevalence of 350,000 living cancer patients are reported in the past 5 years. The age standardized ratio is more in females (128 Women & 96 Men per 100,000 populations respectively), Dr. Muhammad Farrukh Consultant Radiation Oncologist at Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad said.
He was addressing the participants of an awareness seminar against cancer at Shifa International Hospital (SIH) on Saturday. Every year, on 4 February, World Cancer Day is marked, highlighting the health risks associated with cancer and advocating for effective policies to fight cancer. Discounted coupons for mammography were also offered to the female participants, said a press release.
Director General, Health Services Islamabad (CDA) Dr. Hasan Orooj was the Chief Guest of the program. Dr. Hasan said that being diagnosed with cancer is the worst scenario anyone could possibly imagine but the best contribution is to continue the life with high spirit and motivation and helping others, who are striving to battle this disease. Beside role of Government, healthcare bodies and other stakeholders, we as people and society can also play an important role for disease prevention. He advised audience to live a simple life, consuming simple and healthy food and doing regular exercise to prevent cancer. Prevention and awareness can decrease overall healthcare cost of the country.
Renowned Journalist, Anchorperson & Analyst Syed Talat Hussain was also invited in the program as a Guest Speaker. He said that the true spirit of celebrating World Cancer Day globally is to cherish the efforts and motivation of the people who are fighting the menace of cancer. Meanwhile, it is a great opportunity to develop a foundation of a healthier society and nation by spreading education and awareness for prevention of the disease. Media can also play an important role to disseminate this message to the broader set of audience, he stated.
Dr. Farrukh said that cancer is the 2nd commonest cause of human deaths (12.6pc) after cardiovascular diseases (15.1pc) followed by road traffic accidents (9.7pc), respiratory ailments (7.1pc), and per-natal conditions (5.4pc). He said that cancer generally affects the aging and termed sporadic (the more you age, the more chance of acquiring the ailment), but has no restrictions for race, nationality, gender, colour and may also affect the young. Cancers occurring early in life are usually hereditary, being passed to the next generations through defective genes (genetic mutations) eg breast cancer, colo-rectal cancer, thyroid cancer (medullary sub-type) in the young and eye cancer in the children (retinoblastoma), etc. Whatever causes cancer may not be certain, however, a genetic mutation after exposure to a DNA damaging agent remains a certainty. Cancers are neither infectious nor transmitted to other beings.
He informed the audience that tobacco smoking using cigarettes, hukka (sheesha), niswar or snuff is well known for causing cancers of the lung, oral cavity and others like breast and urinary bladder, etc. Timely screening, active and healthy life style and to avoid the avoidable risk factors can protect people from all types of cancer, he stated.
Dr. Ayaz Mir, Consultant Oncologist SIH said there are more than 100 types of Blood Cancer. 3 major categories are Leukemia (involves Blood), Lymphoma (involves lymph nodes or glands) and Myeloma (involves bones). Fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, loss of appetite, bleeding, bone pains, enlarged glands and recurrent infections are main Signs & symptoms of Blood Cancer.
While giving his presentation he said that in USA many blood cancers are now treatable with pills instead of chemotherapy. Other major advance is drugs that stimulate immune system of body to fight cancer (Immune Check Point Inhibitors). Many new drugs are being manufactured in neighboring countries such as India but not in Pakistan and their import is prohibited. Many blood cancers can be cured by Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation from patients own or a donor's stem cells. Transplant is expensive (Rs 1.5-2.5m) and many patients cannot be cured due to affordability issues, he underlined.
He said that it is essential to develop a culture of blood donation and research amongst young people (schools and colleges) in fight against cancer. Pain Medicines for Cancer are unavailable due to overzealous regulations in the country. "Blood Cancer does not mean a death sentence. Many types have a high (70-80pc) cure rate. Early detection is easy and expert consultation is essential, Dr. Ayaz remarked.
Consultant Medical Oncologist and Breast Cancer Expert SIH, Dr. Uzma Qasim said breast cancer is diagnosed in more than one million women worldwide every year. Pakistan has the highest incidence of breast cancer in entire Asia. She shared the risk factors for breast cancer cannot be changed and any woman is at risk of; age, family/personal history, race, background radiation, genetic factors, menstrual history and reproductive history. The risk factors that can be modifiable are obesity, exercise, breast feeding, avoid alcohol, birth control pills and not having children.
She also discussed the diagnosis and management of breast cancer. She said that timely/early diagnosis is key to the cure of cancer. Consultation with the specialists regarding the development of the above symptoms. Undergoing necessary investigations advised by the doctor. Biopsy from the affected area reported from an authentic laboratory. If you feel any lump or change of color then you should consult your doctor for further diagnosis and treatment. She advised women to do self-examination for breast cancer.-PR