Breast Cancer – Early Detection is Key


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I saw a patient yesterday. She was a 40 year old mother of three, her youngest daughter only 6. The patient had gone to a general surgeon because of a breast mass, and she had been referred to me for diagnostic work up.

The lady told me that she had had the mass for over a year. I asked her why she hadn’t seen a doctor earlier, and she said that she hadn’t wanted to draw attention to herself. The family had limited resources, and she had not wanted to become an additional burden.

My patient has cancer. I suspected as much the moment I saw the mass. And when I saw the slides, my suspicions were confirmed.                                                                                                                                                       

The year was 1999. I was a final year medical student. We were attending the Out Patient clinic at Mayo Hospital in Lahore. With our professor we saw patient after patient who had ignored a breast mass for a long time before finally giving in to the pain or weakness. I remember one patient in particular who had come from a village near Peshawar. She had ignored her breast mass for a few months. Then she had sought the blessings of her local ‘Pir Sb.’ When that didn’t work, she had gone to a ‘hakeem,’ who had given her a potion which had obviously not helped. More than a year after first noticing her breast mass, she had finally gone to see a local doctor, who had referred her to Mayo Hospital. By the time she made it to Lahore, the cancer had replaced all of her breast and spread to her axilla and beyond. A mass which could have been removed completely a year earlier had now become incurable.

These are sad stories. And these stories are not at all uncommon. Cancer of the breast is one of the three most cancers among women. One in nine women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. But breast cancer does not develop overnight. It usually begins as a small mass in the breast, which grows ever so slowly for a long time. It is at this stage that a woman should go to a doctor and have the mass examined and biopsied. Most breast masses are benign, but the cost of ignoring a mass that might be malignant is very high. Every day women die of breast cancer which could have been treated if detected in time.

In my experience, most women who don’t see a doctor for a breast mass are reluctant because they are shy to talk about the issue. In other cases, women simply don’t want to ‘waste’ limited resources on their own health. These are terrible reasons to risk the life of a mother, a sister or a daughter.

 Unless we start to get over our hang ups and actually talk about this issue, we will never be able to educate women and their families about the risks of breast cancer. We must change our collective attitude towards women’s health and breast cancer. Only then will these sad stories become less frequent.

5 thoughts on “Breast Cancer – Early Detection is Key

  1. Muhammad Tariq

    Dear Sir,

    I found the link of your blog at facebook. i have a problem Allah has given me a male baby after 14 years of marriage. Now he is of 9 months. Yesterday my wife has described that she is not feeling well due to a minor pain in both the breasts and suspected puss is coming out instead of milk…. what can be the problem?

  2. Omar Post author

    From what you are telling me, it sounds like she has mastitis (inflammation and infection of the breast.) I would suggest that you see a surgeon for proper evaluation.

  3. uzma

    why dont u make atleast check up or tests free for it, if u really want to help people.i m amazed how dr.s n labortries are making money.people r so poor they cant afford costly tests.i had an experience yesterday i went chughtais lab for a blood test.they charged 400/- for that small test.i remember my father was working in sum government organisation.they charged 20/- for that test.its not very old, just a year before.all blood tests they do in 150/-.tht a person can easily in pakistan many people cant make 400/- per can they dare to go to a dr or to go for test? everybody wants to b one wants to risk their health.dont just make speeches, better to do sumthing which u can easily do.

  4. ayesha khurshid

    aoa,yup we should to talk about this issue,otherwise we will never be able to educate women and their families about the risks of breast cancer.and in pakistan mostly it is detected at very last stages 3,4.and what is the reason…just that women feel hesitation to consult n discuss.
    sir i am student of pharmacy final year ,and i decided to select this topic for my final project of clinical pharmacy.i visited diffren hospitals and really it is very sad to know that it is diagnosed at very late stages..
    sir, i request u,for my clinical project i require some data for the pattern of breast cancer.if chughtai lab can provide me then i will be very thankful to you.

  5. ayesha khurshid

    yup definitly we should to talk about breast cancer otherwise because it is the most common cancer in pakistan and what is the reason of its high occurnce is just unawarness.our women feel hesitation and do not come forward and consult with doctor.
    i select this topic for my final project of clinical pharmacy and visited different hospitals and it is really very sad to know that it is diagnosed mostly at later stages.
    just awarness is required because there is 100% chances of recovery at initial stages.
    sir,it is a request i need some data about the pattern of breast cancer in Punjab and i require some data about it.if chughtai lab can provide me i will be very thankful to you.i need case reports of pts. that are tested in lab.
    ayesha khurshid


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