October is known in many countries as Breast Cancer Awareness month, in order to raise awareness about the insidious nature of Breast Cancer. According to the WHO, Breast Cancer constitutes around an estimated 10% of all cancers detected worldwide. To put that into context, it has the second-highest rate of incidence in cancers globally.
Depending on a research conducted, Pakistan has the highest rate of Breast cancer, with almost 90,000 new cases being diagnosed annually, 40,000 of which unfortunately don’t survive. This means approximately 1 out of every 8 women are likely to suffer from breast cancer at at least some point in their lives .
This unusually high rate of incidence can be attributed to a general lack of knowledge regarding the disease, especially among women. There is a heavy social stigma surrounding breast cancer. With some considering the word “breast’ as a sexual rather then a pure anatomical term. Thereby leading to certain regions considering even talk of this cancer as immoral and indecent, let alone breast exams and screenings. The societal taboos have lead to Breast cancer Awareness being a difficult subject to discuss publicly. Often the term “cancer of women” is used instead to avoid dissent.
It is also important to remember that although the rate of incidence of breast cancer in Men is low, they can still be diagnosed with it. With 1 out of 1000 men being diagnosed.
Almost all studies done on the matter show that knowledge is not only inadequate but most women have never had a breast exam or self-screened for signs of this cancer. As a result a lot of time is wasted, which gives time for the cancer to spread. Rendering an initially treatable disease as untreatable This is unfortunate considering research has proven that early diagnoses increases survival rates from 77% to 90 %
Other than the societal, religious beliefs, a lack of knowledge and along, with a poorly structured and underfunded health system. There is also the issue of gender as most women in Pakistan are reluctant to go to a male doctor. Since the healthcare industry is Male dominated, this leads to further obstacles in timely detection of the cancer.
If detected in the first few stages and treated effectively, breast cancer can have a 100% survival rate. All you have to do is remember to do a self exam once every month and get regular mammograms after the age of 40. Don’t be afraid in doing your part in raising awareness for it!