The World Health Organization describes breast cancer in Pakistan as “rampant, the leading cancer killer among women.” While the population of Pakistan is nearly half that of the United States, the number of women dying of breast cancer is on pace with the U.S. (40,000 per year).
In March 2013 Kausar Anver, now 51, was concerned when she noticed redness on her left breast and felt a lump. This Karachi, Pakistan native, like many Pakistani women, was private about her discovery, only telling her sister, whom she lives with. Kausar decided to go to a breast specialist at her local hospital to have it checked out.
An ultrasound performed at the local hospital didn’t show anything, and Kausar was told it was likely a bruise and went home, resuming her daily life. She did her best to ignore the redness and lump, but six months later, she noticed the redness was increasing. Her older sisters, worried, urged her to go to another Karachi hospital for a second ultrasound.
After waiting a few months, Kauser went to a breast surgeon at a well-respected hospital in Karachi who ordered another ultrasound and mammogram. Both tests showed a lump and the physician ordered a biopsy and made her breast cancer diagnosis. The breast surgeon recommended chemotherapy and a lumpectomy.
For Kausar the decision was easy—come to the United States for treatment since cancer treatment in the U.S. is considered the gold standard. Her older sister, a Howell, NJ, native, was referred to the cancer center at CentraState and sought out board-certified, fellowship-trained breast surgeon, Mary Martucci, DO, FACOS, FSSO and board-certified hematologist/medical oncologist, Bhavesh Balar, MD.
In addition to the oncology physicians on staff, Kausar’s care is being coordinated by CentraState Medical Center’s cancer registrar, Uzma Rizwan, also a Karachi, Pakistan, native.
Uzma travels to her native Pakistan twice a year to provide training on cancer data management to physicians and researchers. Devoted to accurate and useful data, Uzma has earned respect from peers both here and abroad. Since 2002, she has been working with Pakistan’s government and private hospitals to establish cancer registries and offer training throughout the country, which includes designing customized programs and training for staff so that Pakistani hospitals can compare their research data with other hospitals throughout the world.
Uzma explains, “I helped to establish cancer registries at two of the leading cancer centers in Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan. Additionally, I have assisted in developing the country’s first pediatric oncology registry and am working on the country’s first bone tumor registry.”
Uzma adds, “I came to the United States in 1995 with a health data management background, and while my husband and I always expected to return to Pakistan to raise our family, we found a home here in New Jersey. I go back to train others in my native Pakistan as a way to give back.”
She continues, “While breast cancer is certainly an epidemic in Pakistan, I am working to educate clinicians and researchers on the benefits of using cancer data for screening, diagnosing and treating all cancers.”
While breast cancer is not publicly spoken of in the conservative Pakistani culture, politician and breast cancer survivor Fehmida Mirza is working to change that. She is working in Parliament to advocate for women’s health issues.