Monday November 29, 2021


October 23, 2021

With pink ribbons on display, more often than has been the case in the past, Pakistan is observing breast cancer month with the rest of the world. There is good reason to draw attention to breast cancer, with one in every nine women likely to suffer the disease in her life. According to the limited figures available from Pakistan, 90,000 women suffer breast cancer each year and 40,000 die as a result of a disease which is curable if it is detected in the early stages. Sadly, this is often not the case in a country where awareness, diagnostic facilities and perhaps most of all the stigma that surrounds any disease of this nature make it difficult for women to bring forward symptoms or discuss their condition. Indeed, while lung cancer is the most common cancer in the country, some experts predict that breast cancer, the most common cancer in the world for women, may soon take over. Whereas breast cancer was most frequently found five years ago amongst women aged over 60 years, and under 70 years, the age has now fallen to 50 years and above with more and more younger women suffering breast cancer as well.

The fact that we lack diagnostic facilities, basically mammography machines in locations except our major cities makes diagnosis harder for women as is the lack of self awareness with the vital self-examination recommended by doctors across the world rarely practised. It is also true that healthcare facilities, access to which is already limited, are too little to serve the population and women are often discouraged from seeking care which would mean money going out of the family budget. In matters of nutrition, women often come last in the hierarchy of households. This is part of a wider issue concerning women and society. Diseases that are seen as being more common in women are frequently overlooked or ignored.

We need to remove stigmas that surround women in so many areas. They are stigmatised if they are raped, they are stigmatised if they are harassed and they are stigmatised if they are sick. A wider concept of equal rights for women, including improved access to healthcare and more awareness about cancer, such as those which affect the breast or the ovaries, needs to be put in place so that the rate of death we are currently seeing in our country can be brought down. All we need is more awareness and greater attention to the fact that women are equal human beings and enjoy equal rights under the constitution. These must be granted to them in all facets of life.