Prof Tauqir-Ul-Islam, head of the Department of Dental & Maxillofacial Surgery at the Liaquat National Hospital Karachi, has said that the most horrifying aspect is to see oral cancer in the younger age group, which was earlier found in patients above 55 years of age.
“We are seeing oral cancer patients as young as 17 years. Now that’s a very productive age; it means that the disease is having a huge impact on society in terms of contributing to the health burden, loss of productivity as well as affecting individual families,” he said while speaking at a webinar organised by M. Hashim Memorial Trust last week.
The webinar, titled ‘Oral Cancer Epidemic in Karachi’, was attended by more than 150 participants from medical community, civil society, academia, entrepreneurs and social workers fro, across Pakistan.
Cancers grow and spread fast in young patients, Prof Tauqir-Ul-Islam said, blaming the situation on the emergence of highly carcinogenic products like gutka, tobacco, pan and mainpuri. “Patients with advanced stage oral cancer have a challenging life after surgery as parts affected by cancer are removed. They may develop difficulty in breathing, eating and swallowing, apart from experiencing the painful side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy,” he added.
“Ideally, a patient should have undergone radiotherapy within a month, but the patients here get it in three to four months, reducing its effectiveness. The relapse rate is high in the public sector because of multiple factors, including compromised treatment, due to high patient burden.”
Treatment, however, is successful only if the lesion is diagnosed early. There is no registry in the country to record cancer cases. Karachi is said to have the highest incidence of oral cancer in the world, according international and national health authorities.
Prof Tauqir-Ul-Islam emphasised the need for good oral health that not only prevented oral cancers but also prevented the current epidemic of severe COVID-19 progression, and might reduce risk of complications. Prof Abdul Sattar M. Hashim, renowned neurosurgeon and chairman and MD of the MHMT, concluded the webinar and thanked the participants.
He promised that the MHMT would continue to introduce innovative therapies and provide healthcare excellence to the medical community and patients at affordable fees (most of the time free for deserving patients) without compromising on quality standards.