As the 18th National Health Sciences Research Symposium on cancer drew to a close on Thursday at the Aga Khan University, experts from Pakistan and abroad gave an insight into the disease calling cancer as one leading cause of death globally, with more than 8 million deaths recorded in 2012 alone.
The World Health Organisation had warned the number of new cases would rise by about 70 per cent over the next 20 years, with almost twothirds of annual cases in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, they said.
Dr Ikram Burney, consultant oncologist at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Oman, said that research was the key to prevention and treatment strategies.
He compared hospitals active in research with those that were inactive quoting a study of 165 hospitals and concluded that 80 active hospitals gave better care to their patients.
“Patients benefit from receiving treatment in hospitals that are active in research with better processes of care, training, education and specialisation,” he added.
Dr Gauhar Afshan said that 5.5 million people worldwide received no treatment or minimal assistance for their cancer pain even though “pain is among the most common and feared symptoms in cancer patients”.
Outlining the barriers in managing cancer pain in developing countries, she said, pain was generally regarded as part of cancer treatment and patients were encouraged to live with it rather than to actively take steps to manage it.
Focusing on the oftneglected topic of nutrition, Bushra Mushtaq, senior dietician, stressed the importance of a suitable diet for cancer patients and said it should be planned and monitored by a qualified dietician.
Quoting a study, she said that once or twice a month consultation with a dietitian helped cancer patients improve their protein intake by around 239kcal per day as compared to a group that was not counseled.
Experts also discussed different cancers and progress in treatment. Lung cancer was the leading type of cancer globally with the highest mortality rate as 90 per cent of patients were dying of it.
Dr Ghulam Haider of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi, reiterated the need for early detection. There was 49 per cent chance of survival when the disease was diagnosed at an early stage and the chances fell to a very low 03 per cent at the advanced stage, he said.
Dr Ather Kazmi of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Lahore, outlined several different strategies and surgical practices to treat gastric cancer, the second leading cause of death from cancer.
“More than half the cases occur in East Asia, where Korea and Japan show the highest incidences,” he added. He also explored the role of radiation in cancer survival and whether it improved the outcome of localised resectable (able to be removed by surgery) gastric cancer.
Dr Farhat Abbas spoke about prostate and bladder cancers. Despite being a common form of cancer in Pakistan (8.9pc in both men and women), patients of urinary bladder cancer present their cases at an advanced stage, he said.
Panelists also discussed head and neck cancers with a focus on salivary gland tumors, oral cavity cancers and larynx/hypopharynx cancer.
They reiterated the call for healthservices infrastructure and human resources to help combat this disease. “The silent nature of this form of the disease, misinterpretation of symptoms and lack of awareness about risk factors contribute to delay on patient’s part,” added Dr Shabbir Akhtar who moderated the session.

News Reporter