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Lifting the veil off breast cancer in Pakistan

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It is now estimated that 1 out f every 9 women in Pakistan will be diagnosed with breast cancer, yet because of religious taboos about even saying the word “breast because it is associated with “sexuality,” many people there feel it is “immoral for them to go to hospitals to get screened for the disease.” In addition, the women, themselves, are too afraid to even discuss their disease with members of their own families. When it is mentioned, it is referred to strictly as “cancer of women.”

As a result, breast cancer is believed to claim the lives of 40,000 Pakistani women each year, the most in any Asian nation. Unfortunately, things are only expected to get worse according to Shahzad Aalam of the World Health Organization, who is now working with oncologists and the PinkRibbon breast cancer awareness group to help bring about a change there.

“We are trying to break the taboos associated with breast cancer here,” stated Omar Aftab, head of PinkRibbon in Pakistan, after a study conducted at Rawalpindi General Hospital found that 70% of the 600 women questioned had no knowledge of the disease at all, and 88% were ignorant about breast exams. In addition, 68% of the women did not comprehend the importance of what finding a lump in her breast meant.

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