Breast Cancer on the Rise in Herat

The rise in breast cancer among women in Herat has raised concerns among health officials in the province. In recent years, after the establishment of a separate ward for the care and diagnosis of the disease in Herat maternity hospital, the number of patients has increased.  This has led some doctors to take special courses for breast cancer treatment in Europeans countries to better diagnose and guide people with the disease.

Officials of the Breast Cancer Care Unit in Herat say that since 2018, when the diagnosis department was activated in the central maternity ward of the province, at least one out of every 10 women who visit this center has a positive test result.

The officials of this medical center say that in order to be accurate in their diagnosis, they send the tests taken to Perugia hospital in Italy, which collaborates with the breast cancer care department of Herat, and the final result of the tests takes three to five days.

Every day, 15 to 20 women come to this center to get breast cancer tests and receive medical advice. In addition, some people get tested to see if they have breast cancer or similar diseases.

Health officials in Herat say that two female doctors in the diagnostic department were trained abroad and two other women in the testing department have received special training and are helping the center’s patients for free. If a test is positive, they teach them the important matters regarding the disease.

In an interview with 8 Subh, Dr. Abdul Hakim Tamana, Herat’s director of public health, said thanks to changes in people’s lifestyles, microbial diseases would decrease and chronic diseases would increase. He emphasized that the growing number of breast cancer cases in the country, especially in Herat, was a matter of concern and that the Ministry of Public Health needed to invest more in this area.

Speaking to 8 Subh, Dr. Saeeda Saeed, a gynecologist and head of the Herat maternity hospital, expressed concern about the increase in breast cancer among women in Herat. She added that although it is possible for men to get breast cancer, women are “a hundred times more likely” to get it than men.

Doctors who have taken special courses in breast cancer diagnosis training in Italy say that the cytology sampling department of the disease has been activated in Herat maternity hospital for the past two years. During this period, 696 women were tested for breast cancer, and 121 of them tested positive.

Fatima Karimi, a gynecologist and head of the sampling department at the Herat Maternity Breast Cancer Care Center, told 8 Subh that between 15 and 20 women come to the center daily for tests and medical guidelines.

I went to the Women’s Breast Cancer Care Center in Herat to talk to women who have the disease. Shaima Behbood is one of these patients in Herat. She was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago when she was pregnant.

The woman has traveled to Pakistan 14 times for treatment and surgery. She emphasizes that at first it was difficult for her to fight the disease, but her husband accompanied her and she is now 36 years old and is trying to defeat the disease with her two sons and a daughter.

She comes to the center once a week for testing and now feels better. Shaima advises women with the disease that it is possible to defeat breast cancer and any other disease by “fighting and resisting” it.

In the process of diagnosing breast cancer, pregnant and lactating women first take sonography tests, but women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding have their breasts tested with a low dose of X-rays. This test is more accurate than sonography, but is not suitable for pregnant and lactating women.

After the presence of a gland in the breast is detected, cytological sampling of the breast tissue is performed, at which point the test result is determined. To make the test results more accurate, suspicious samples are sent from Herat to Perugia Hospital in Italy.

The X-ray and gamma ray radiotherapy departments were also scheduled to be opened at the center this year, but this has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. All stages of treatment from sampling to conducting the test in this center are completely free and no money is taken from patients.

Although the exact causes of breast cancer are not known, from the doctors’ point of view, factors such as not marrying, not breastfeeding, obesity, personal history, the presence of cancerous glands in the body, ovarian cancer and family history of people with this disease play a role.

The Women’s Breast Cancer Care Center in Herat Central Maternity Hospital was established in 2013 in collaboration with the Italian Institute “Varanasi”, and it employs five specialist doctors. Payment of salaries and expenses at this department is also the responsibility of this institution.

Although the increase in the number of breast cancer patients in Herat is a concern for health officials, the establishment of a Women’s Breast Cancer Care Center in the province has raised hopes for the accurate identification and early treatment of patients.