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Social taboo leading cause for unchecked breast cancer in Bangladesh

  • Published at 11:42 pm October 27th, 2018
The Pinkathon
A rally took place in Bashundhara Residential Area for the breast cancer awareness program the Pinkathon, organized by Apollo Hospitals Dhaka on Saturday, October 27, 2018 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cites breast cancer as one of the top cancers affecting Bangladeshi women and third on the list of cancers for both men and women in Bangladesh

Even though breast cancer is a leading cause of death in Bangladesh, many women are completely unaware of their illness because of social stigma attached to sexual organs.

World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cites breast cancer as one of the top cancers affecting Bangladeshi women and third on the list of cancers for both men and women in Bangladesh.

Some 12,764 new breast cancer patients are detected every year while the number of deaths from breast cancer is 6,846, IARC said.  

In an effort to build awareness on prevention, screening, and reduction of deaths from breast cancer, Apollo Hospitals Dhaka organized a week-long awareness program, the Pinkathon, on Saturday.

Since October is breast cancer awareness month, the Apollo program was arranged with the motto ‘Let’s Go Pink,” with the support of its social partners: Persona, Canvas, and Inner Wheel District 345.

Apollo Hospitals General Manager (Branding and Market Communications) Aftab Mahmud Khurshid said: “Apollo Hospital has a Cancer Care Centre on par with international standards. The center has a  Medical, Radiology, and a Surgery Oncology department that is well regarded.”

A recent survey of 246 patients by the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital medical oncology department,  social taboos and unawareness were the main reasons for unchecked breast cancer and delay in early detection.

The study found that 65.5% of breast cancer patients delayed their diagnosis by more than six months, although 83% of them found lumps in their breast  or had other symptoms of breast cancer.

Mohsena Reza, chairman of Inner Wheel District 345, said that during their awareness campaign they found two major factors affecting early detection of breast cancer.

“One of the things we found was the shame attached to speaking about sexual organs and reproductive health. This causes a lack of communication with friends and mothers about these subjects.

“The second thing we found was the unwillingness to go to a doctor and be examined if they found a lump or something not right with their breasts,” she said. “This taboo is the reason for many premature deaths from breast cancer.”

Sheikh Saifur Rahman, news editor of ATN News, said the mass media can play a vital role by building awareness and helping to normalize the conversation around such taboo subjects.

Persona CEO and managing director, Kaniz Almas Khan, also attended the awareness program.