Doctor says there are almost 90% chances of recovery if the disease is diagnosed early
KARACHI: Breast cancer is not the killer; late detection is, said Liaquat National Hospital consultant surgeon Dr Rufina Soomro. Thus, she added, early detection can save the lives of thousands of women every year.
She was addressing a seminar on ‘Provincial Breast Cancer Awareness’, held to mark the international month of breast cancer awareness. It was organised at the Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU) in collaboration with Pink Ribbon Pakistan on Tuesday.
“There are almost 90 per cent chances of recovery if the disease is diagnosed early,” she said. Dr Soomro was delivering a lecture on ‘Treatment and Prevention of Breast Cancer’. “Early detection means that the whole breast will not have to be removed and fewer surgeries will be performed, which increases the chances of the patient’s survival.”
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Dr Sughra Asghar of the JSMU said women who have a family history of breast cancer and personal health history are more likely to suffer from breast cancer. Furthermore, women who experience early menstruation and menopause after the age of 55, those who have the first child after the age of 35 years and those who do not breastfeed their children are prone to breast cancer.
“One woman out of nine is likely to have breast cancer in Pakistan and, in all forms of cancers, breast cancer has the highest mortality rate,” said Dr Asghar. Around 83,000 cases of breast cancer are reported and 40,000 women lose their lives in their battle against it.
Sign and symptoms
Dr Asghar explained that a change in the nipple’s colour, tenderness, discharge and swelling around it, are some of the symptoms of breast cancer. She refuted the concept that all lumps are cancerous. Almost 80 per cent of the lumps are benign, she said, adding that a possible warning sign can be a new lump in the breast and pain that persists more than three weeks.
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Breast cancer myths
Dr Asghar said that there are several myths about breast cancer. Refuting them, she explained that every lump in the breast is not cancer. Secondly, she said, it is untrue that men cannot have breast cancer, adding that it is, however, uncommon among them. Among other myths, she talked about how it is believed that breast cancer spreads when a mammography is done, that the cancer is contagious and that wearing a black bra causes the cancer.
A healthy lifestyle is a must to prevent any type of cancer. Eating nutritious food, limiting alcohol, avoiding smoking and exercising regularly helps prevent cancer, said Dr Soomro. Also, she said, if a woman spots a small lump in her breast, she should immediately see a doctor. The smaller the lump, the easier it is to cure, she added.
According to the doctor, every woman who crosses 20 years of age should conduct self-examination of her breasts. She advised all women to get mammography done after they cross the age of 40. A biopsy of the lump is mandatory since it clarifies whether it is cancerous or harmless.
Social support system
Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) psychiatry department head Dr Iqbal Afridi said 47 per cent of the women with breast cancer suffer from anxiety while 37 per cent women are afflicted with depression. “The most important reason for their psychological problems is because they are image-conscious and have a fear of relapse,” he said. He was giving a presentation on the ‘Psycho-Social Barriers in the Management of Breast Cancer’. Speaking about women who have suffered from breast cancer, he said that they need a strong social support system and cognitive therapy along with psychotherapy. He added that we need to give them hope to fight their battles against the cancer.
Essa Laboratory pathologist Dr Naila Zaheer and JPMC clinical oncologist Dr Muhammad Ali Memon also spoke at the event. Vice-chancellor Prof Tariq Rafi, Senator Dr Karim Khawaja and a large number of students also attended the seminar.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2015.