Things You Need to Know About Breast Cancer In Pakistan

by Aiman Tahir Laghari
Things You Need to Know About Breast Cancer In Pakistan

Cancer is one of the most painful diseases. Not only the patient but the whole family of a patient suffering from it. 

For this very reason, if we talk about painful diseases then without a doubt cancer is on the top. Even though, with the increase in technology advancement, various treatment options are available. But, the overall treatment cost is expensive.

In fact, further studies being conducted highlighted the other potential causes and risk of developing cancer.

Why is Breast Cancer Common in Pakistan?

Now, if we particularly talk about Breast cancer, it is very pertinent to mention here that in Asia alone, Pakistan has the highest cases of Breast Cancer. In Pakistan, 1 in 9 is either suffering from breast cancer or is at risk of developing it. As of 2020, out of all types of cancers, 28.7% of the new cases of cancer were breast cancer alone.

Interestingly, the causes of developing breast cancer are still not clear. There are studies where people having high-risk factors do not develop it while the ones with no risk factor are suffering from it. It can be hidden health issues if not diagnosed timely. In fact, the increased cases of the advanced stage of breast cancer in young women in Pakistan have a negative effect on the prognosis.

But, if we dig deep into the potential causes and risk factors of breast cancer. It is pertinent to highlight that breast cancer is more common in rural women as compared to women in urban areas, the possible reasons for this include:

  • Cousin marriages
  • Illiteracy
  • No formal health infrastructure 
  • Lack of information on personal hygiene is just a few reasons.

Now, before moving towards the possible risks of breast cancer, let’s get to know about its signs and symptoms along with its various types.

getting to know the possible Let’s get to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Every cancer has different signs and symptoms. In the early stages, you might not notice any visible signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Still, some common signs and symptoms of breast cancer are:

  • Breast pain
  • Swelling over the entire breast
  • Red, pitted skin over your entire breast
  • Bloody or whitish discharge from the nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, or flaking of skin on nipple or breast
  • Inverted nipple
  • A sudden, unexplained change in the shape or size of the breast
  • A lump or swelling under the arm
  • Changes in the appearance of the skin on the breasts

Stages of Breast Cancer: 

Signs and Symptoms are the one thing, but like any other cancer, breast cancer has different stages which are based on the spread and size of the tumour. In order to stage breast cancer, the following factors are considered:

  • The spread of cancer; invasive or noninvasive
  • Size of tumour 
  • Spread of the tumour to the lymph nodes 
  • Invasion of cancer to the surrounding tissues 

Breast Cancer is divided into five stages which are as follows:

Stage 0 Breast Cancer:

Just as the name indicates, in this stage the tumour does not invade into the surrounding tissues but rather remains in the breast ducts.

Stage 1 Breast Cancer:

This stage is further divided into two types:

  • Stage 1A: In this stage 1A, cancer is 2 cm wide and cancerous doesn’t invade the nearby lymph nodes. 
  • Stage 1B: In this stage 1B, the tumour is either smaller or equal to 2 cm. But, in this stage, it affects the surrounding lymph nodes. 

Stage 2 Breast Cancer:

Stage 2 Breast Cancer is also divided into two types:

  • Stage 2A: The size of the tumour in this stage is less than 2 cm and has invaded the 1–3 nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2B: The size of the tumour is 2-5 cm and has invaded to the 1 to 3 armpit lymph nodes. 

Stage 3 Breast Cancer:

Similarly, stage 3 Breast Cancer is also divided into two types:

  • Stage 3A: Cancer has invaded the 4 to 9 axillary lymph nodes or spread to the internal mammary glands.
  • Stage 3B: Cancer in this stage has affected the chest skin and may have extended up to 9 lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3C: Tumor has spread to 10 or more axillary lymph nodes around the collarbone or internal mammary nodes.

Stage 4 Breast Cancer:

Cancer can be of any size or width. The tumour may have invaded the nearby or distant lymph nodes or organs.

Causes and Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

Various researches have shown that women who are not at risk of developing breast cancer or not showing any signs or symptoms also suffer from breast cancer. 

But, still, we cannot deny the possible causes and risk of breast cancer. 

Some of them are as follows:

  • Inherited Breast Cancer Genes: Studies have shown that 5-10% of breast cancer is linked with the gene that causes breast cancer and it is passed through from generation to generation. The breast causing cancer genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2. These two genes collectively are responsible for causing ovarian and breast cancer. 
  • Being Female: If you are female, you are more likely to develop breast cancer. Men are at risk too, but that risk is extremely small as compared to women.
  • Age: With age, the risk of breast cancer increases and for this very reason women above 40 years of age are recommended to regularly get their mammography done.
  • Direct Family History: If you have an immediate family member such as a mother, sister or daughter who suffers from breast cancer then you have a high chance of developing breast cancer.
  • Eating cancer causing foods: Eating certain foods can increase your risk of breast cancer. Some of these cancer-causing foods include processed foods, red meat, microwaved foods, alcohol etc.

Not only has this but having a male family member suffering from breast cancer also increased your risk of breast cancer. Apart from this, if you’ve already suffered from breast cancer before then, it’d increase your risk for relapse as well.

  • Obesity: Being overweight or obesity is becoming more of a problem and if it is not controlled it would be one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It is also one of the risk factors of breast cancer. 
  • Exposure to radiation: Your risk of breast cancer increases if as an adult or as a child you have received any radiation treatments.
  • Having periods below age 12 years: It is a natural phenomenon in all females but your risk of breast cancer increases if your periods started before 12 years of age.
  • Late Menopause: Your chances of suffering from breast cancer increases if you have late menopause.
  • Giving birth after 30 years of age
  • Pregnancy: The risk of breast cancer increases if a woman has never been pregnant. The women who have been pregnant at least once, their risk of suffering from breast cancer is decreased.
  • Hormone therapy: If you have taken hormone therapy to treat your symptoms of post menopause then you are at a high risk of developing breast cancer.

Diagnosis of Breast Cancer:

A physical examination is conducted by an oncologist to diagnose breast cancer and then further tests are conducted to find the cause of breast cancer. 

These tests are conducted to diagnose breast cancer


Mammogram is one of the first and common tests for the diagnosis of breast cancer. Therefore, women above 40 are advised to get their mammograms done, as above 40, the risk of breast cancer is increased.

It is an imaging test, in a mammogram, a detailed image of the area below the breast is obtained. If the suspected area is obtained after the mammogram then other tests are performed.


In this test, ultrasound, sound waves are used to get the image of tissues or tumours deep in the breast. Through this imaging test, the specialist can distinguish malignant tumors from benign cysts. 

Breast Biopsy: 

If mammogram and ultrasound don’t confirm breast cancer regardless of symptoms then your oncologists will recommend your breast biopsy test.

A biopsy is performed by taking a tissue sample from the affected area. It can be performed by different methods. In some tests, a needle is used to remove a small portion of tissues from the affected area. In others, an incision is made in the breast followed by the sample removal.


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer in Pakistan, but early diagnosis saves a life. So, it is important to be completely aware of the causes and risks of breast cancer in order to cure and prevent this notorious cancer. 

If you feel any concerning signs and symptoms regarding your health, make sure to consult an oncologist. As nothing is more important than good health. 

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