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February 14, 2021

Deaths from oral cancer on the rise in Karachi, warn experts


February 14, 2021

Oral cancer has become the most common cancer among men in Karachi and its surroundings where gutka and other forms of chewable tobacco have wreaked havoc with the lives of people, and thousands of people are annually dying in this region due to mouth or head and neck cancer.

Of the 6,000 new cancer patients registered with Karachi Institute of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine (Kiran) every year, around 35 per cent cases are of oral cancer, which are on the rise due to uncontrolled use of gutka, paan, chalia, naswaar and tobacco in several other forms.

Most of these cancers are preventable if we put an end to oral tobacco use and discourage smoking.

Instead of avoiding doctors and following non-scientific advice from quacks, hakeems and faith-heelers, people should listen to qualified health experts, and in case of cancer, they should never hesitate in getting biopsy done so that early treatment could be started, said senior cancer specialists and oncologists while speaking at an awareness session organised by Kiran at its premises in connection with World Cancer Day 2021.

On the occasion, a large number of doctors, cancer survivors and common people took out a rally and pledged to adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent themselves from various types of cancers.

Speaking at the awareness session, Dr Asghar Hussain, senior oncologist at Kiran, said there are over 100 types of cancers in humans, but the most common cancer among men in Karachi and its surroundings is the oral cancer while breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the country.

“Around 35 per cent of people who come with cancer at Kiran annually suffer from oral cancer, which is a preventable disease although some men who never used tobacco also suffered from oral cancer,” he said, adding that in the rest of the country, prostate cancer was the most common cancer among men in Pakistan.

He said that in women, breast cancer is 30 per cent of the total cancers they deal at Kiran and advised women not to ignore anything different in their breasts and get themselves screened for cancer so that in case of breast cancer, early treatment could be started which cures the patients 100 per cent.

“In most of the cases, lifestyle modifications can prevent us from getting cancers. All we need is to live a healthy life, exercise daily, eat a healthy and balanced diet, get vaccinated against preventable diseases, avoid junk food and, most importantly, avoid using tobacco, alcohol and all other drugs and narcotics.”

Director Kiran Dr Akhtar Ahmed, in his address, said that every year, around 180,000 new cases of cancer are registered in Pakistan which is a huge number. He added that for the last 30 years, incidence of oral cancer has increased multifold in Sindh, especially in and around Karachi.

He maintained that due to late diagnosis of cancer cases in Pakistan, mortality is very high in Pakistan. He added that unfortunately, cancer patients approach doctors and specialised healthcare facilities very late and in the serious stages of their disease.

He said Kiran is going to start cancer surgeries very soon with the help of its patient welfare society and philanthropists, after which it would become the complete cancer treatment facility with all the treatment options available under one roof.

Prof Nilofer Hashmi said women should not take breast cancer lightly, and if they feel anything unusual, they should approach the oncologist or any senior doctor and get themselves screened so that their treatment could be started at the earliest.

“In my case, it was a painless lump and I ignored it for a long time till it became painful and it emerged that it was a cancerous growth,” she added.

Head and neck surgeon Dr Shaukat Malik also spoke of growing incidence of oral cancer in Karachi. He said that nowadays, cancer specialists, ENT surgeons and other people dealing with head and neck diseases regularly see cases of oral cancer.

President Kiran Patient Welfare Society Aman Kassim Machyara said prevention from diseases is like worship and Islam asks its followers to prevent themselves from inflicting harm to themselves and others.

Several others, including Ghazal singer Salman Alvi, Saleem Tabani, and cancer survivors Syed Asif Ali and Hameed also spoke on the occasion.