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October 20, 2020

The colour pink

Opinion

October 20, 2020

Pink is extraordinary. Pink lives are exceptional. Pink ribbon is love, life and a prayer. It unites us and it soothes our sorrowed hearts. It gives a hint of stereotypical identification with feminine attributes and courageous hearts. It means health, vitality and empowerment of women.

Pink ribbon is a strong symbol of breast cancer awareness and the fight to find a cure against the lethal disease. It is used all around the globe, bringing light to the cause across countries, cultures and societies.

Every society, every nation has its own cancer experiences. The increasing rate of breast cancer in Pakistan gives a hint of the lack of awareness among Pakistanis. In Pakistan, breast cancer kills every fourth woman but unfortunately people cannot even say the culturally forbidden word ‘breast’ loud and clear while talking to someone about breast cancer screening. People have to use euphemised terms to discuss a medical condition often concealed in social stigma in our part of the world. It is discussed among people with anxiety. Our societal beliefs behind breast cancer as a taboo subject run in our roots quite deeply.

Cultural taboos have been one of the most critical issues that prevent women from seeking medical assistance. In our conservative society, discussing or spreading awareness about breast cancer remains a taboo and the word ‘breast’ is associated with sex instead of as a body part. In our patriarchal society, it is considered immoral for women to talk about breasts or visit hospitals for their screenings. They are tamed to believe that a female body is a myth.

Women undergoing breast cancer surgeries have to face post-operative issues such as changes in femininity, sexual identity, and fertility. Fear and guilt are a part of cancer diagnosis and they prove to be critically devastating for the patients.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month internationally. The sight of pink ribbons makes us remember that women should not die of negligence, unawareness and personification of ignorance. Women in Pakistan keep their families as a priority, and neglect their own health. They do not realise that the happiness of the whole family revolves around the women’s health.

Different factors affect a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Some risk factors like family history cannot be changed. Others depend on a person's lifestyle. Due to lack of awareness, women are not aware of the risk of breast cancer and due to this most of the cases in our country are diagnosed at a later stage, when the rate of survival is extremely low. By the time women see an oncologist, the cancer is at a stage where it is very difficult to treat.

In Pakistan, there is a staggering sense of shame attached with certain cancer types like breast, skin, ovarian and cervical cancers because it is related to the reproductive health of women. There are multiple reasons behind this – which include unawareness, lack of access to healthcare facilities, and socio-cultural beliefs and attitudes. If only women and their families are educated about the grave consequences of this lethal disease, and its proper treatment, we can prevent breast cancer from spreading at the alarming rate that it is right now. For a screening test to be successful, the coverage and participation of women should be high, and the corresponding system for diagnosis and treatment has to be effective.

Breast cancer survivors should be encouraged that they are not victims to be rescued. They are fighters. We need to honour this month for all those pink angels who have shown us that not all the superheroes wear capes. We should kill the taboo, not the spirit.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: ZainabNazir28