Nuclear medicine plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis of cancer

Nuclear medicine and radiotherapy are indisputably the most dynamic and fast growing disciplines of medicine that play a pivotal role in the diagnosis and management of cancer and allied diseases, Director of Pakistan’s Nuclear Institute of Medicines and Radiotherapy (NIMRA) Dr Syed Shahid Iqbal said, while cautioning that the rate of cancer is on the rise globally.

According to Dr. Iqbal, new found prosperity and trappings of a modern lifestyle have made cancer rate to rise dramatically worldwide and according to World Health Organization (WHO) 11 million new cases are being reported with death of 8.5 million people every year in the world. These lifestyle changes included the reduced activity levels, increase in fast-food consumption and increased tobacco usage are becoming more common in Pakistan and are factors, causing cancer in the country, he said.

He said that cancer caused by viral or bacterial infections, can be prevented through strategies such as vaccination and adopting lifestyle changes, safe behaviors and other control measures, all of which could be implemented worldwide. Giving example, Dr Iqbal said that 80 per cent of global cervical cancer deaths are in developing countries. And even where affordable technology is available, enormous challenges remain due to limitations in disease awareness and public health infrastructures, illustrated by the significant differences in the coverage of Hepatitis-B vaccination programmes worldwide.

The eminent medical practitioner also cautioned that liver cancer is likely to be an epidemic of future as two billion people, one out of three people, in the world have been infected with hepatitis virus. He said 40 per cent of hepatitis B and 60 per cent of hepatitis C patients were at the risk of ultimately developing liver cancer. He laid a stress on limiting transmission of hepatitis viruses by promotion of safe injection practice and screening of blood donation products. He informed that survival rate was very low for liver cancer patients.

He cautioned people to be careful of quacks who do not use sterilized tools, terming it one of the major reasons for spread of the hepatitis virus.

He informed that lungs and throat cancers among men, breast cancer among women and oral cancers afflicting both genders are becoming common in Pakistan. According to Dr Syed Shahid Iqbal tobacco and betel nut is one of the reasons that residents of large cities, such as upper and lower Sindh, who belong to the lower socio-economic classes where literacy rates are low, are at the highest risk of acquiring the disease.

Prevalent among these populations are head and neck cancers, which affect the inside of the nose, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat or the voice box, he said while adding that in such cases surgery along with radiotherapy and chemotherapy was the preferred treatment.

He underlined the need of launching mass awareness campaign at large scale so that the people could be aware of reason, which causing different kinds of cancer disease. He informed that eradication of this disease from Pakistan can only be possible through better awareness, prevention, care, support and access to treatment at all levels engaging various professionals like doctors, health workers and social workers.