Unity in pink

VERY October, the world witnesses a cascade of pink, symbolising a united front against a pervasive adversary: 2 breast cancer. Marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Pakistanis can also be seen donning a pink ribbon on their chest, a gesture of solidarity with patients, survivors and their loved ones. Breast cancer has stitched itself into our social fabric. It does not discriminate, casting a wide net and touching the lives of thousands of women, thereby making concerted awareness and education pivotal. According to the Global Cancer Observatory, over 25,000 new cases of breast cancer were reported in 2020 in Pakistan, and the disease claimed the lives of over 13,000 women. Pink Ribbon puts the toll much higher.

Pakistan has the highest incidence rate of breast cancer among Asian countries, with one in every nine women at risk. That says a lot about where we stand in our fight against breast cancer.

Breast health discussions here often bear a social stigma, so women feel embarrassed while reporting symptoms.

The importance of early detection, facilitated through selfexaminations and professional screenings, must be imparted unequivocally across all demographics. A diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence, and with advancements in medical science, outcomes have improved drastically. Besides overcoming hesitation, there remains the simple matter of making screening more accessible, particularly in rural areas, and affordable, since the cost of diagnostic tests is prohibitive for many. There must also be a commitment to increasing psychological and rehabilitative support for patients and their families. The state must prioritise healthcare infrastructure, which not only means investing in specialised facilities, but also in professionals, such as oncologists and radiologists, of which there is a chronic shortage. We should augment our collective efforts in enhancing awareness, facilitating accessible screening and treatment avenues, and supporting those making the arduous journey.

It`s not merely about survival statistics but understanding that each number represents a life, a story, and a battle against a formidable opponent.