Pakistan’s struggle with healthcare inequalities is no secret, and the absence of accurate cancer statistics underscores this challenge further. Without precise insights into cancer’s reach, it becomes difficult to allocate resources effectively or formulate targeted interventions. The consequences of this are profound and many individuals suffer from mouth, throat and lung cancers, often facing inadequate treatment options due to the scarcity of accessible facilities in public hospitals and the financial burdens in private ones.
The staggering influence of unhealthy habits on cancer prevalence is equally concerning. The link between the use of mava, gutka and chhalia and mouth and throat cancers is distressing. The rising incidences of liver diseases and hepatitis further emphasise the urgency for a holistic approach to public health. About 85% of cancer cases in Pakistan are attributed to lung cancer, largely fueled by smoking — which warrants comprehensive regulatory measures. To address this crisis, several measures are imperative. First, the government must prioritise collection of accurate and detailed cancer data. This information serves as the cornerstone for informed decision-making, enabling healthcare authorities to direct resources where they are most needed. Collaborative efforts between medical institutions, governmental bodies and NGOs can streamline data collection and analysis processes.
Additionally, accessible and affordable cancer treatment options must be made available to all citizens. A well-functioning public healthcare system that caters to cancer patients, coupled with targeted subsidies for medications, can alleviate the financial burden and ensure equitable access to treatment. Education campaigns that emphasise the harmful effects of tobacco use and other cancer risk factors can play a pivotal role in raising public awareness. Addressing these challenges demands a multi-pronged effort that spans across policy, education and resource allocation paradigms, ultimately paving the way for a healthier future for all Pakistanis.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2023.