The NSW Breast Cancer Institute (BCI) recently had the pleasure of hosting the Clinician-In-Charge of the Multan Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy (MINAR) Breast Clinic from Pakistan.
Dr Zahida Sabih, who is from Multan, a city of 4 million, visited the BCI from 27 March to 29 April 2007 on a UICC fellowship to study breast cancer screening, diagnostic and therapeutic protocols and administrative management and she thoroughly enjoyed her visit.
“I would like to congratulate Prof. John Boyages on the standards he has established at the Breast Cancer Institute and thank him most sincerely for giving me the opportunity to spend time with him and his talented and dedicated staff.”
BCI executive director Prof. John Boyages said it was a delight to meet a passionate and dedicated professional like Dr Sabih. “We just don’t realise how lucky we are in Australia to have a well-resourced breast cancer screening and treatment program. We really cannot begin to understand the challenges Dr Sabih and her patients face on a daily basis.”
Dr Sabih is the sole breast cancer practitioner servicing the Multan district of Punjab. Most of her comprehensive knowledge and skill is self taught and she is totally isolated geographically from experienced practitioners involved in breast cancer diagnosis (there are very few in the whole country).
According to the Pakistani National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer for any Asian population accounting for 40,000 deaths per year. About one in nine Pakistani women will get breast cancer.
Despite these challenges and a huge workload, Dr Sabih is committed to establishing international best practice standards at her centre, both in clinical mammography as well as setting up a training program to ensure capacity building among the physicians and technologists who are trying to deal with mammography as the need grows throughout the country.
MINAR is one of 13 nuclear medicine and oncology centres established by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. More than 300,000 patients visit these centres per year for nuclear medicine, radiotherapy, clinical oncology, immunoassays, ultrasound, doppler and mammography services. Dr Sabih and MINAR provide the only available mammography service for the entire city and surrounding areas. She has developed a breast awareness program and, in addition to her full-time position in the public sector and private practice work, is the only person spreading the breast health message in the local community.
Dr Sabih said she hoped to establish ties between MINAR and the BCI and other Australian institutes to share knowledge and experience and set up joint training programs and workshops.
“It has been a privilege to see first hand international best practice standards utilised in a quality team environment using state of the art equipment and most importantly with a total commitment to women-focussed care. I intend to translate this experience into setting up and/or improving local protocols that are more in line with international standards,” she said.
Here are some general statistics about Pakistan that reveal the challenges Dr Sabih faces: