38.5% of all cancer cases diagnosed in Pakistan are regarding breast cancer, making it the most prevalent type of cancer in the country. Even though it is mostly present in women aged above 50, it is on the rise among younger women as well. In Pakistan, close to 90,000 new patients are admitted each year from which around 40,000 dies. This is mainly due to the fact that patients diagnosed are mostly in the advanced stages of the disease. But what is breast cancer? And can it be cured?
Similar to other cancers, breast cancer also develops due to uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. In a normal situation, cells that have performed their function are destroyed and replaced by new ones. These malignant or harmful cells from a tumor then start to spread and damage surrounding tissues and organs.
Symptoms and Causes
The most common and noticeable symptom of breast cancer is a lump or area of thickened tissue on the breast. However, there can be many other symptoms including discharge or bleeding from the nipple, a change in the size or shape of either of your breasts or a lump in your armpits.
Factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include:
- Age – the risk increases as you get older
- A family history of breast cancer
- Previous benign breast lump
Diagnosis and Treatment
Mammographic screening is used to detect breast cancer; X-ray images are taken of the breast area. Apart from this, there are also methods for self-detection that are relatively simple and can help in early diagnosis.
If cancer is detected at an early stage, it has a fair chance of being treated through a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. The type of surgery and the treatment you have afterward will depend on the type of breast cancer you have and the stage it is in.
Awareness regarding breast cancer is low in Pakistan. In women and in the general population, it is a topic not discussed as much as it should be, leading to its high prevalence. Apart from the social stigma attached to the topic, a high percentage of the population still prefers going to untrained physicians before visiting a hospital, by which time the disease advances to a dangerous stage. All of us need to do our part and speak up to raise breast cancer awareness.
Read more: Breast Cancer Awareness Month at Dawaai