University College of Islamabad principal was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago
ISLAMABAD: Diagnosed with breast cancer in its second stage eight years ago, Dr Catalina Alliende says in her case regular mammography saved her from developing any serious complications.
Catalina, who serves as the principal of University College of Islamabad (UCI), says cancer runs in her family.
“Although my mother and sister were diagnosed with other types of cancer, such as cancer of the uterus, I have been careful since then and went through checkups every two years,” she said.
Speaking of her treatment process, Catalina said that following diagnosis she underwent successful treatment at Nuclear Medicine Oncology and Radiotherapy Institute (Nori) in Islamabad.
“I also kept working during the period I was undergoing chemotherapy to keep myself busy,” she said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Catalina said that she had always remained very open about her experience and as a breast cancer survivor.
“I wear pink to work the whole month of October — also known as “Pink October” as breast cancer awareness month throughout the world,” she said.
It’s my way of creating awareness among young students and girls about the disease, she added.
Catalina said breast cancer was a very treatable, stressing that “nobody should give themselves a clean chit just because they’ve never felt anything odd with their bodies.”
“I’ve never been sick, and in most cases you cannot feel anything unless the cancer has grown through its last stages,” Catalina said.
She said it is very sad that women did not get treated soon enough just because they did not feel anything odd with their bodies.
Dr Humera Mahmood, consultant oncologist at NORI, said there was no doubt that cancer was a treatable disease and there were several myths associated with it.
Misconceptions such as breast cancer is largely genetic or small breast women have lower risk of developing the disease or breast cancer always appear as a lump are not true.
“It is thought that young women cannot develop breast cancer, which is not true. The hospital does receive young breast cancer patients too,” she said.
Mehmood said patients usually are under the impression that if an operation was done no more treatment was needed since the malignant tumour was out of their body. “Chemotherapy and radiotherapy is as important as the operation,” she added.
“Every patient is different and some cases need to undergo an operation first, while others are required to begin their treatment with chemotherapy,” Mehmood said.
Dispelling myths associated with mammograms, Mehmood said some people were under an impression that regular mammograms could somehow prevent cancer or on the contrary caused cancer were not true.
Similarly, according to Mehmood, having a normal mammogram once does not mean that one should just completely not worry about developing breast cancer at later stages in life.
Use of birth control pills, antiperspirant deodorants or wearing a bra has no relation with breast cancer, contrary to popular beliefs.
“[You come across some] people [who] are even under the impression that drinking from a plastic water bottle left in a hot car can cause cancer, which has no supporting evidence,” Dr Mehmood said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.