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Editorial: World Cancer Day

Perhaps the most daunting challenge for the oncologist worldwide is the combating cancer. According to the estimates from the International Agency for Research (IARC), there were 41.1 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths worldwide in 2012 while the global burden is expected to shoot up to 21.7 million new cancer cases and 13 million deaths until 2030. American Cancer Society (ACS) defines cancer a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it causes death. Most common factors quoted for the diseases are tobacco, infectious organisms, and unhealthy diet, and internal factors such as inherited genetic mutations, hormones, and immune conditions. The treatment includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immune therapy and targeted therapy.

According to the research from IARC as many as 148,000 cases emerged in Pakistan alone during year 2012 and Pakistan is also marked as having highest incidence of breast cancers in Asia (Dawn, 2014).  

Whereas the confirm number of cases in Balochistan is not easily available owing to no permanent treatment facility in the province, the sources in Health Department Balochistan disclosed to Balochistan Point that as many as 35000 patients, both male and female, were under treatment in the cancer unit of the Balochistan Medical College and Teaching Complex (BMC) and the number rose to 4000 in the year 2016. The number of the cases registered in the BMC Quetta is staggering while it is well known to everyone that most of the people in Balochistan often resort to treatment to the health facilities at sister provinces owing to lack of confidence in the health facilities in Balochistan. In the case of cancer, most turn to Agha Khan University Hospital Karachi which is one of the most expensive hospitals and the treatment of a patient of oncology may cost a million rupees normally in the said hospital. Among cases that remained eye-catching on social media was that of Rehan Rind (late), a young bright boy from Khuzdar in his 20s. He lost the battle of his life to the disease at Agha Khan University Hospital in Karachi in 2016. One of the last messages that circulated the social media from his cell phone was an appeal to the youth of Balochistan to campaign for establishment of a cancer treatment hospital in Balochistan. Similarly, a lady from Kalat recently was also highlighted in the news who was not allowed to discharge from Agha Khan Hospital for being unable to pay a bill of around Rs. 900,000 after treatment. A young boy Niamat Ullah Shahwani lost the battle of his life in March, 2012 to one of the kinds of gastric cancers in the same hospital.14-year old Yasmeen Shahwani, sister of young Journalist Yousaf Ajab Baloch was also one of the patients who could not fight with the fatal disease of cancer and lost her life in May 2016.  The above cases are sufficient to prove that the facilities present in Balochistan for the treatment of cancer are devoid of gaining the confidence of the masses and therefore they turn to the sister provinces by paying heavy sums to the hospital, the lodging and boarding costs aside.

Secretary Health Balochistan does aspire to establish a fully functional cancer hospital in Balochistan but there is nothing in black and white that could serve as a silver gleam of light in the darkest of clouds for the people of this bereaved province. We have been suggesting in these columns that the Health Department, for now, should at least conduct awareness seminars in all the district headquarters of the province regarding the disease, its nature, and possible treatment so that the common people are educated about it hazards and lethality. This would be much effective saving lives. Moreover, Balochistan is a land littered with quacks who, for little money, play with the lives of such serious patients by making false promises of treatment. Such quacks also prohibit the relatives of patients to take patient to a regular medical facility and hence quicken his death. The quacks are also in the form of spiritual healers who make claims of the treatment with spiritual healing. Health Department and Government of Balochsitan, along with awareness campaigns, should also launch a clampdown against such people so that the patients get to a regular treatment facility sooner than later!

Finally, we hope that the dream of a fully functional cancer hospital would sooner be materialized in Balochistan

Published in The Balochistan Point on February 04, 2017

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