by Misbah Saba Malik
ISLAMABAD, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Rahat Malik, a resident of Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, said his world turned upside down when doctors told him that his father is suffering from cancer and he will not be able to live more than six weeks.
"He was a super fit and healthy man, had no disease, he used to walk for eight km everyday to keep himself fit. He visited hospital for routine checkup and doctors found a small tumor in his liver which later turned out to be final stage cancer after further investigations," Malik, who lost his father to cancer in December last year, told Xinhua.
Besides Malik's father, about 148,000 people are diagnosed as new cases of cancer every year in the country and almost 100,000 people lose their battle against the disease annually.
Currently, there are 3 million cancer patients in Pakistan, according to the country's national institute of health.
Talking to Xinhua, Ayub Rose, director general of health services of Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, said that the number of annual new cases of cancer is higher than other countries in Asia-Pacific region.
"It's a pity that in developed nations the number of cancer patients is decreasing because of the lifestyle changes whereas in developing countries like Pakistan it is rapidly increasing," Rose said.
Muhammad Farrukh, an oncologist with Islamabad's Shifa International hospital, said that cancer is the second commonest cause of deaths after cardiovascular diseases and is followed by road traffic accidents, respiratory ailments, and perinatal conditions.
He said that in Pakistan, unawareness about the disease, poor lifestyle and pollution are the major causes of the rapid spread of the disease.
Farrukh said that timely screening, active and healthy lifestyle and avoiding risk factors can protect people from all types of cancer.
Oncologists say that the most common cancers in males in Pakistan are in head and neck whereas breast cancer is the leading cancer among the Pakistani women.
Uzma Qasim, a consultant oncologist in Shifa hospital, said that "about 90,000 new cases of breast cancer were reported in Pakistan last year and about 40,000 women died of the disease in 2017 in the country which is a very alarming situation and need immediate attention."
Nausheen Ambar, a physician from Karachi, pointed out that women do not know about self-examination and they ignore the initial symptoms of the disease because they take it as a taboo to talk to their physicians about breast cancer issue.
Doctors said that about 90 percent of deaths from cancer occur in low-income people mainly because of lack of access to diagnosis and unaffordable treatment for the disease.
Cancer hospitals are only located in big cities so people from remote areas need to take a long travel to get themselves treated. Nageena Bibi, a resident of Chakwal district said that she receives treatment from a herbalist in her village because she cannot afford the cost of travel.
"I went to a public hospital, they asked me to visit thrice a month for free treatment, but the bus driver takes 750 rupees (about 7 U.S. dollars) for round trip. I earn only 6,000 rupees a month from which I have to meet other expenses too," Bibi told Xinhua.
She knows that the herbalist will not save her life from the disease, but she cannot afford to get treatment for the disease in hospital. She said that she preferred the village herbalist that only takes 100 rupees for medicine only for a temporary relief in pain.
Local watchers believe that people should adopt a healthy lifestyle to protect themselves from cancer at first place, and the government should also allocate more funds to hospitals not only in big cities, but also in small cities and towns to facilitate low-income people in remote areas.