Persistent awareness drive helped breast cancer patients approach doctors at curable stage: Samina Alvi

First Lady Begum Samina Arif Alvi addresses a gathering on Breast Cancer Awareness Program Saint Josephs College for Women during her visit
APP53-311022 KARACHI: October 31- First Lady Begum Samina Arif Alvi addresses a gathering on Breast Cancer Awareness Program Saint Josephs College for Women during her visit. APP /AMH/TZD/SSH

ISLAMABAD, Dec 1 (APP): Begum Samina Alvi on Thursday expressed satisfaction that a persistent campaign about breast cancer during the last four years had raised awareness among the masses as more women were approaching hospitals at a curable stage of the disease.

Speaking at a breast cancer awareness event organized by a telemedicine company Sehat Kahani, she said as per data from the Federal Breast Cancer Screening Centre at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Islamabad, the number of mammography cases touched 1,403 in 2019 compared to 475 in 2016.

During this October, she said, the number of breast ultrasound cases crossed 3,000 where 32 percent of the women informed that awareness campaigns were their source of information about the disease.

She said similarly, the screening cases at Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital also increased as people started taking the concept of early diagnosis seriously.

Begum Alvi mentioned the efforts made from the platform of the Presidency during the last four years, which she said, greatly helped in removing the taboos regarding holding public discussions on breast cancer.

She said earlier, women did not even know about the symptoms of breast cancer which led to late diagnosis at the third or fourth stage.

She said early diagnosis of the disease was significant in avoiding the costly treatment.

Samina Alvi advised the women to practice a five-minute self-examination every month and see the doctor immediately on finding any abnormal findings.

She said breast cancer was more prevalent in women, however, a small percentage of men could also suffer from the disease.

One in nine women in Pakistan faced the risk of suffering from breast cancer and mentioned that up to one million fell prey to the disease every year, she said.

She expressed concern over the alarming rise of breast cancer patients in the country as half of them could not survive due to diagnosis at late stages.

She appreciated Sehat Kahani for launching a cancer protection programme in collaboration with an insurance company to ease the financial burden of the cancer patients.

Begum Alvi expressed satisfaction over the holding of regular awareness sessions about breast cancer in the country and mentioned the role of the media in educating the masses.

About raising awareness in remote areas, she said women at a Dar-ul-Uloom in Wana’s tribal area were also apprised about the prevention of breast cancer while the women in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa were educated about regular awareness sessions.

She highlighted the importance of free camps set up by Khyber Teaching Hospital in far-flung areas to educate the women about self-examination, where 16 cases of first-stage breast cancer surfaced during screening.  

She recalled visiting all the provinces herself to lead the awareness sessions about breast cancer in the interest of women’s health.

She expressed satisfaction that several hospitals in the country were offering free screening and mammography services including 13 in Karachi, eight in Punjab, three in Islamabad, five in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and three in Balochistan.

Also, a few hospitals in Karachi are offering testing facilities at discounted rates, she said.

She urged the women to take their health seriously as their families and even society were dependent on their valuable contribution.

About the well-being of persons with disabilities, Begum Alvi stressed the need for attention by all segments to accommodate and mainstream the 10-12 percent of such population.

She also emphasized the need to address the challenges of mental health and mentioned that she had also started focusing on this area of health as well.

CEO of Sehat Kahani Dr Sara Saeed Khurram, also a digital health influencer, highlighted the salient features of her mobile phone application as a one-stop telemedicine solution for various health care primary health issues from diagnosis to treatment.

The Sehat Kahani App, she said, offered connecting to a doctor in less than 60 seconds where high-quality doctors and specialists were available round-the-clock.

Oncologist Dr Naila Anjum Zahid in her presentation said the survival rate of breast cancer patients in Pakistan was less compared with the 80 percent rate in developed countries.

Jubilee Life Insurance’s Farhan Akhtar Faridi in his speech mentioned the financial support programmes launched for breast cancer patients that aimed at easing the burden of the heavy treatment costs.

Breast cancer survivors namely Shireen Gaiba and Amina Butt shared with the audience their journey of recovering from the disease.