Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women all over the world. Unbeknownst to most people, it is also dangerous for men too. Awareness methods are gaining traction little by little, but the myths surrounding the cancer make the carriers submit to silence. To make sure that this chain of silence starts breaking, Daastan conducted an interview with Dr Uzma Hameed, a doctor and a philanthropist who presented an enlightening conversation to dispel the hesitance around the discussion of the topic.
Insight into Breast cancer:
Daastan’s representative Mulaika engaged with Dr Uzma Hameed, who began with her introduction. Hailing from Jinnah Medical and Dental University in 2007, Dr Uzma now provides her services for Dow Medical University, while simultaneously interacting with philanthropic ventures. She performs duties at Sehat Kahani, an all-female health providing network. She also raises awareness about medical issues on digital platforms.
Mulaika initiates the conversation by inquiring about what cancer really is. In Pakistan, we see there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding medical issues, so such a clarification is important to dispel these. Before delving into breast cancer, Dr Uzma aptly describes cancer as a disruption of normal functioning of cells in the body. She states how breast cancer can affect both genders, but disproportionately affects women more. Since there is a stigma surrounding women’s health, we often do not see a discourse on this topic in the mainstream.
Dr Uzma tells the viewers that the causes of the cancer remain unfounded to this day; 72-76% cases have unknown origins. However, this does not mean there are no correlations. She states that there are numerous causes that increase the risk of breast cancer. These include a genetic continuation from a familial member who had breast cancer priorly, women who have not breastfed, infertility, prolonged usage of birth control pills and obesity.
Debunking myths regarding breast cancer
Obesity does play a role in the causation of breast cancer, but it is not a surefire outcome. So, to relate every case of breast cancer to an unhealthy diet would be fallacious. It is important to make these clarifications to make sure that viewers understand that obesity does not always correlate to breast cancer, but it does increase the risk.
Mulaika acknowledges the fact and asks what preventive measures should be adopted. Dr Uzma appreciates this question and states that unfortunately, Pakistan holds the highest number of breast cancer affected in all of Asia. This sad reality occurs because most woman, fearing for breast removal or societal backlash do not voice their concerns if they feel something off, and end up succumbing to the cancer. 1 in every 9 women in Pakistan is at risk of Breast Cancer. Dr Nadia stresses that early detection is the key to a better survival rate. She further goes on to tell the viewers how they can detect it at an early stage.
Steps for self-examination:
The method for self-examination is very simple and should be undertaken by all woman as a cautionary measure. Firstly, both arms should be raised, and the breasts should be observed. Then the nipple should be carefully observed, if it is inverted or there are any spots or injuries next to it. If there is any discharge, it should also be noted. The next step is to gently massage the breasts in a circular motion using three fingers. It should not be pressed on with force, as the tissue is soft, and pressuring would cause some discomfort. If a lump can be felt, or aforementioned conditions of the nipples are observed, a doctor should be immediately sought. If a breast cancer specialist is not available, a general physician or a gynecologist should be consulted. This type of examination is advised every month.
Self-examination is the preliminary stage, but a clinical examination should also be undergone by woman whose risk factor increases. Dr Uzma analogizes that as an X-ray for the breasts. A mammogram should be done by all women after thirty-five who have a familial history of breast cancer, and by all women in general after the age of forty.
Not all tissues in the breast are cancerous though. Sometimes, there is a presence of lumps or tissues which are benign, or not cancerous. Therefore, all lumps should be professionally investigated to know if the lump is dangerous or not.
Benefits of Early Diagnosis
Breast cancer is an entirely curable disease, but it is contingent on early detection. The cancer can be completely rooted out if it is recognized early on, and this can prevent the complete removal of the breast. The chances of undergoing chemotherapy are also significantly lowered. The mental health of cancer patients should also be catered to and rooting out the tumor early on can lead to lesser mental trauma faced by the patient.
Spreading Awareness: What is next?
Many women fear coming forward with the knowledge that some anomaly is present on their breast. Our society has surrounded such a stigma around women’s bodies, that they cannot openly discuss issues related to it in fear of being shut down. A safe space should be created for all patients, so they feel no shame in coming forward. Dr Uzma also mentions that widespread awareness aids in the creation of this safe space. It also makes sure people do not believe false myths, like the claim that breast cancer is contagious. It is absolutely not contagious. The support network of the patient should not dwindle, and they should have constant mental comfort while they are going through this to lessen their fears. She ends on a hopeful note, letting us all know that the cancer is completely curable, and women should constantly examine themselves.
Daastan encourages all of its readers to not only the patients suffering from the cancer, but to actively educate the masses about the topic. This leads to a more inclusive society and drastically improves the chances of the patients. We invite you to join our cause and help in tipping the dominoes towards a brighter future!