ISLAMABAD: An overwhelming 98 per cent of female cancer patients treated at the maternal and child health centre (MCHC) at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) have some variation of gynaecological cancer.
Gynaecological cancer accounts for 20 per cent of all cancer deaths, according to Dr Nasira Tasneem, assistant professor obstetrics and gynaecology at MCHC. It is as important to talk about other types of gynaecological cancers when speaking about breast cancer, she said.
Data shared by Dr Tasneem show that only two per cent of cancer patients admitted in PIMS between January 2009 and December 2011 had non-gynaecological cancers.
Among gynaecological cancer patients at the hospital, almost 44 per cent suffer from ovarian cancer, while nearly 16 per cent were found with endometrial (uterus) cancer, and over 11 per cent of patients had cancer in the vulva.
She said the data strongly co-relates with the current situation at the gynaecology ward, which was built to deal with basic and benign complications, and has been receiving a majority of gynaecological cancer patients.
Cancer patients come to the hospital at complicated stages of the disease, making it difficult for doctors to decide on treatment, she added.
“We often end up having to ask for -risk consent forms before high-risk surgery due to the seriousness of their conditions,” Dr Tasneem said.
She said they had recently treated a patient with immense vulva cancer. The patient had been treated by quack doctors for the past two years. “Though she underwent successful surgery, it was too late, as the disease had spread to her brain and she died from related complications”, she said.
“This indicates a serious lack of awareness among the general public. Patients and their families do not approach hospital until the cancer has reached its final stages,” she added.
The gynaecologist said the best way to go about the issue is to focus on enhancing screening mechanisms for cancer in its early stages.
“More awareness is needed, so women can recognise symptoms of gynaecological cancer such as discolouration of the affected areas, and conduct self checkups,” she said.
In addition, she said a significant number of patients have their first screenings at the gynaecology ward. As these screenings involve cost, she encouraged checking for the disease at a stage where it is still treatable.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.