You

Changing perceptions, changing lives

October 9, 2018
By Buraq Shabbir

Breast cancer survival rates have risen worldwide while the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining. In this regard, You! takes a look at the efforts being made by ‘Ek Soch Welfare Organization’ in Karachi...

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Breast cancer survival rates have risen worldwide while the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining. In this regard, You! takes a look at the efforts being made by ‘Ek Soch Welfare Organization’ in Karachi...

Breast cancer charities and other relevant individuals and organisations across the globe work to raise awareness and funds for the cause during the month of October. This has been declared as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), an annual international health campaign that is aimed at digging deeper into the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of the disease. It also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

Pakistan is no exception and as the month of October begins, one witnesses the importance given to educate people on the subject including the importance of early screening, tests and more. One such group that has come forward to take part in the proceedings this year is called ‘Ek Soch Welfare Organization’, an NGO that was founded by Hammad Shahbaz earlier this year with the objective to work against prostitution/harassment and provide equal rights to transgender community in Pakistan. Working with a bunch of other young individuals, both male and female, Hammad also works for issues related to education and awareness with the idea of bettering the society. These people are trying to make humans more considerate and sensitive towards their surroundings.

Their most recent effort was an evening dedicated to a discussion on breast cancer that shed light on multiple aspects and stigmas attached to the disease, aimed at making this world a safe place for breast cancer patients, both victims and survivors. Held at ‘Chai Chowk’ in Karachi last week, the discussion offered a unique perspective on the battle that the affectees fight while facing people’s attitude towards them. Beginning with the symptoms, causes and treatment processes, the discussion steered towards how the disease affects one’s lifestyle and people in their surroundings socially, emotionally, physically as well as psychologically.

Reflecting on the initiative while speaking to the scribe, Hammad shared, “Breast cancer has become a very common disease; one out of five women suffers from this in Pakistan and people aren’t aware of it. The idea was to raise awareness on the disease so that people, particularly women, can trace the symptoms at an early stage and rectify. It is totally curable at the first stage while it gets difficult to treat at later stages, both medically and financially. This is why we decided to spread the word through our initiative so that more and more victims can turn into survivors if they are able to cure it at the right time.”

While it is important to be aware of the symptoms and how one should go about the treatment once traces of the cancer are observed, it is equally important to look at it from a broader perspective. Providing medical treatment to a patient of breast cancer at any stage isn’t enough; making that time easier to deal with matters the most. Social and family pressures, losing a job, medical expenses and hopelessness are some of the major elements that play the worst part while a patient is learning to cope with the disease. Top it off with negative remarks and conservative mindset, and you have killed the victim before he or she actually dies of cancer.

The most important part is to empathise with the patients. This can be achieved by dealing with them like a normal person rather than a sick one. When patients are asked what motivates them towards living positively during their illness, they have shared that it is the constant support of their families and friends while the worst part is the pain they go through during the treatment processes.

It has been observed that those who survive have the fear of getting the cancer back again, but that’s not the case always. Many patients are living a healthy and fulfilling life in remission as cancer is completely curable if it is detected at an earlier stage. Another significant aspect is to be mindful of the misconceptions that are commonly associated with breast cancer in our society; one of the most common myths being the fact that cancer is contagious. Cancer is not transferable and a patient is not at fault for having this disease.

Furthermore, it is a sign of hope that substantial support for breast cancer - in the form of increased awareness and medical advancements - has had a positive outcome. Breast cancer survival rates have risen worldwide while the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining. This is largely due to factors such as earlier detection, a new personalised approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.