ISLAMABAD - There is a need to develop a Breast Cancer Control Policy and subsequent Programmes in line with national and international practices, speakers said on Thursday.

Radiological Society of Pakistan (RSP) and Shifa International Hospital have jointly organized a Consultative Workshop on Planning and Capacity Building to Conceptualize Quality Assurance for Screening and Early detection of Breast Cancer in Pakistan.

The Objective of the workshop was to engage the experts involved in the screening and early detection of breast cancer, and the policy/ decision makers including Ministry of Health, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform and Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

There is a need to develop a Breast Cancer Control Policy and subsequent Programmes in line with national and international practices and standards, especially emphasizing safety and quality issues.

For this purpose, the starting point is to obtain baseline information on specific areas such as Breast Cancer Screening and Early Detection to save millions of lives.

The workshop was attended by professionals from across the country who contributed ideas and proposals for the establishment and sustainability of the Breast Cancer Control Programme in Pakistan.

Speakers of day were Dr. Naseem Begum (Coordinator Education and Research Committee, Radiological Society of Pakistan), Dr. Arif Malik (Breast Surgeon, Shifa International Hospital), Dr. Samra Mazhar (DD Ministry of Health), Dr. Najmuddin (Chair Person Education and Research Committee, RSP), Ms. Khadija Khan (GM, Quality Management, National Disaster Risk Management Fund), Ms. Abida Khatoon (IAEA/PNRA) & Ms. Zohra Bano (DM, Gender and Development, National Disaster Risk Management Fund).

The workshop ended with a resolution to form a Technical Advisory Committee which will continue to follow the recommendations made in the workshop.

Breast cancer is an emerging public health issue in Pakistan. In Asia, Pakistan has the highest age standardized incidence rate (ASIR) of 50.3/100,00.

Also the two regional population based cancer registries of Pakistan (Karachi Cancer Registry and Punjab Cancer Registry) have shown similar ASIRs of 51.7/100,000 , and 47.6/100,000 respectively.

According to the GLOBOCAN 2012 estimates the Age Standardized Mortality Rate (ASMR) for Pakistan was 25.2/100,000, highest among South Asian countries

The major reason for high ASMR is advance stage of disease at presentation due to lack of awareness and or access to screening and early detection facilities, delayed clinical evaluation, diagnosis and staging, and absence of timely access to optimum treatment.

A key determinant of survival outcome of breast cancer in any population is the degree to which it is detected at an early stage. In the United States of America (USA), the five year survival is 99% for localized disease, 85% for regional and 27 % for distant disease .

There is evidence, based on several randomized clinical trials that screening and early detection of breast cancer has played a major role in reducing the mortality rate in USA and other developed countries.

The current situation in Pakistan reflects that there are fragmented efforts for screening and early detection of breast cancer. There was an initiative by the Federal Government of Pakistan resulting in the establishment of a dedicated breast care center in Islamabad in 2014, followed by the second such center at Lady Aitcheson Hospital, Lahore in 2017.