First Lady addressing an event at Aga Khan Hospital Karachi
First Lady addressing an event at Aga Khan Hospital Karachi

KARACHI, Oct 25 (APP): First Lady Begum Samina Alvi Sunday urged members of civil society to join hands in making the diagnostic and treatment of breast cancer disease affordable for all Pakistanis, especially the underprivileged.

The first lady was expressing her views as a chief guest at an event held to create public awareness of the disease and to raise funds for the treatment of patients in need, a press release said issued here.

During her speech, Begum Samina Alvi highlighted the importance of early diagnosis of the disease.

“If you detect breast cancer early, it can be treated and you can lead a normal life. But if you ignore it, the consequences can be dire for a person and their family,” she added.

Begum Alvi recognized the role of the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) in treating the country’s most complex cases of breast cancer and providing substantial support for the needy patients.

Other speakers said that Pakistan had one of the highest rates of breast cancer in Asia and it continued to be one of the most fatal diseases in the country.

They also discussed a number of myths about the disease such as that a woman was shielded from breast cancer if no one in her family had suffered from the disease or the mistaken belief that breastfeeding could protect one from the disease.

Dr Abida K. Sattar, head of breast surgery and Director of the Comprehensive Breast Surgery Programme at AKUH said that breast cancer was not preventable but it was completely treatable if caught early.

“It often requires a combination of treatments such as medicine, radiation therapy and surgery. Early detection enables more effective, less extensive treatment that maximizes the chance of preserving the breast,” she added.

Dr Sattar recommended that all adult women conduct a breast self-examination once a month and urged women over the age of 40 to go for an annual mammogram.

She also advised women to seek care without delay if they notice lumps in the breast or armpit, unusual skin or nipple changes, or experience discharge from the nipples.
“Not all breast lumps are dangerous but all breast lumps need to be evaluated by a trained doctor,” Dr Sattar added.

Other speakers at the session spoke about how the cost of treating the disease represented a barrier to patients seeking treatment.

They noted how AKUH was playing a role in expanding access to quality care for breast cancer patients through its welfare programmes, which offered subsidised care worth Rs 11 million to 485 needy inpatients in 2019.

They also announced plans to set up an exclusive fund to finance the treatment of financially disadvantaged breast cancer patients.

Other speakers at the event included AKU Medical College Dean Dr Adil Haider, AKUH Outreach Health Network Pakistan Chief Executive Officer Shagufta Hassan, Associate Professor of Paediatrics at AKU Dr Salman Kirmani and Senior Lecturer in Surgery at AKU Dr Saida Rasul.