HNH Spotlight With Breast Cancer Awareness Ambassador Dr. Zia Ul Islam

Team HNH Style sits down for a candid interview with the supremely skilled plastic surgeon (By Faisal Rahat)

HNH Spotlight With Breast Cancer Awareness Ambassador Dr. Zia Ul Islam
Breast Cancer Awareness

We are half-way through October and that means, the breast cancer awareness drive is in full swing across Pakistan, and the world at large. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (PINKtober) is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

It intends to educate people about the importance of early screening, tests, and more. This campaign starts on October 1 and ends on October 31 every year. Pakistan is, unfortunately, one of the worst affected as the country has the highest incidence of Breast Cancer in Asia. An estimate of 1 in 10 women may develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime. 

To that end, Team HNH sat down for a candid interview with one of the very best plastic surgeons that Pakistan has to offer, Dr. Zia ul Islam. We asked him a few questions related to breast cancer awareness and its campaign in Pakistan.

HNH Spotlight With Breast Cancer Awareness Ambassador Dr. Zia Ul Islam

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Dr. Zia ul Islam (MBBS, FCPS (Surgery), FCPS (Plastic Surgery)) practices his trade at one of Pakistan’s most reputable hospitals. We began by asking him as to what inspired him to become a breast cancer awareness ambassador, to which Dr. Zia said that we should be able to talk about this problem openly and honestly, and confront it upfront:

“I am a plastic surgeon and when we talk about problems faced by patients, breast problems are one of them. Since October is considered as the month for Breast Cancer Awareness, I take this opportunity to talk about other things related to the breast as well. Breast cancer is definitely a big problem in Pakistan. A lot of women die of breast cancer because they are too shy to talk about breast cancer.”

HNH Spotlight With Breast Cancer Awareness Ambassador Dr. Zia Ul Islam

He continued:

“There are other problems related to the breast that people are too scared to talk about, like somebody born with one small breast, or one absent breast, or other breast deformities by birth, trauma, or by disease. So I am an ambassador for the breast, not just for breast cancer.”

Dr. Zia says that it is his mission to remove breast as a taboo topic, which is highly appreciable. He added that women and children should be very comfortable talking to a doctor or to each other about their breast problems.

Asked how he would compare the awareness programs and efforts made in Pakistan to increase awareness to those made by other third world countries and the developed nations, Dr. Zia ul Islam said that he has very little idea about what is being done in other third world countries, but in Pakistan, this campaign is gaining momentum thankfully. He said:

“The campaigns to improve awareness are increasing. Recently, the specialty of breast surgery was recognized by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which is a step towards that. So breast surgery is now a specialty being practiced in Pakistan and it is part of this campaign. It is a very high-end and strong campaign and the sole purpose of this campaign is to save people who have breast cancer. So a fantastic work is being done in Pakistan.”

HNH Spotlight With Breast Cancer Awareness Ambassador Dr. Zia Ul Islam

Like we saw with the coronavirus awareness, it is highly appreciable of the cellular network operators in Pakistan to get in on the act and raise awareness about breast cancer through their dial-tone message. We proceeded to take Dr. Zia ul Islam’s opinion on how spreading awareness plays a role in reducing the number of fatalities in a given year, to which he replied with an emphatic yes and said:

“What is more important than creating awareness is decreasing the taboo associated with talking about breasts. We still get a lot of educated patients who still come with very large breast cancers because when they had that lump, they were shy to talk about it and wouldn’t want to show it to a doctor, and especially a male doctor. So at the end of the day, they end up getting very large breast cancer that ends up being very difficult to treat.”

He continued:

“Simultaneously, we have a lot of other problems like we have young, unmarried girls who have huge breasts and they have a lot of problems associated with those breasts – they have pain in their shoulders, they have skin problems. They go through mental torture as they cannot wear proper clothes, but they still choose not to talk about it. So yes, this breast cancer campaign is definitely playing a part in decreasing the taboo associated with talking about breasts.”

We proceeded to ask Dr. Zia ul Islam that when conducting his awareness activities, he must meet a lot of people undergoing treatment in Pakistan, so what is the one change he believes that would make their journey easier, to which he said that for breast cancer, it is very important that it should be a one-window thing.

“If somebody is suspected of, or diagnosed to have breast cancer, then there should be one place that they can go to and they should have all the information, resources, counseling, treatments – including radiation, diagnostic services, breast reconstruction, in one place. I think that will radically change the treatment and the journey of the patients who are on this path.”

HNH Spotlight With Breast Cancer Awareness Ambassador Dr. Zia Ul Islam

Team HNH Style ended the spotlight interview by asking Dr. Zia ul Islam for a video message to everyone who currently is and those who are at risk of being potential breast cancer patients, to which he sent a very realistic and comforting message.

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