Cancer survivors, caregivers and medical experts today said empathy towards cancer patients and proper treatment instead of fear or social stigma can save millions of lives each year.
They said the general fear around cancer should not dominate the social discourse as medical scientists have developed high quality medicines and sophisticated technologies which are available at home.
The observations came at a webinar titled "The Stories of Conquering Cancer" jointly organised by SK+F Oncology and The Daily Star today, on the eve of World Cancer Day tomorrow, with the theme "#IAmAndIWill".
The campaign says, "Our actions have an impact on everyone around us, within our neighbourhoods, communities and cities. And that more than ever, our actions are also being felt across borders and oceans."
Taking part at the webinar, cancer survivor Hashmat Rehana Chowdhury said she was nervous after being diagnosed with cancer but the doctor dispelled that fear and suggested necessary precautions.
"I found the doctor and nurses were very supportive and caring. As I regularly went to the oncology centre in Dhaka, the nurses and doctor became like my relatives," she said. Her family, friends and colleagues, all supported her through this process.
A teacher by profession, Rehana Chowdhury said she had to continue her job but she reduced her working hours.
She said people in general are very afraid of cancer and think they need to go abroad for treatment. That perception has been proven wrong in her case, she said.
"I have full confidence in the treatment and care provided at home," Rehana Chowdhury said. She also added that going abroad requires huge amount of money, which can be saved or kept within the country if the treatment is available at home.
Another cancer survivor Habiba Monsur said she was very afraid after being diagnosed with cancer. But there was some fault in the diagnosis – a fact that prompted her family and relatives to go to India.
"However, the doctor in India suggested that the medical protocol that was prescribed in Bangladesh was fine. Eventually, I returned home and continued the treatment and survived the cancer," she said.
"My husband was also very supportive. The doctor had shared the possible reactions to medication, so I was prepared," Habiba said.
Her husband Monsur shared how mutual understanding, love and affection during the critical days of the disease can help a patient.
He said they had a social pressure to go to India, but then realised that the treatment was same at home. "My employer provided financial assistance for the treatment. So, I had no major problem. But, quality treatment of cancer is very much possible within the country."
Dr Zafor Md Masud, professor and head at the Department of Oncology at Bangladesh Medical College and Hospital said there is no guarantee that cancer treatment will be the best abroad.
Bangladesh has high quality medicine available now and a healthcare system. Mutual understanding between the doctors, nurses, family and the patient is very important. Also, lifestyle plays an important role. Social awareness on cancer is key, said Dr Masud, who moderated the discussion.
Dr Shahriar Islam, portfolio manager, Eskayef Oncology, said Eskayef Oncology has state-of-the-art manufacturing facility equipped with many pioneering technologies like ISOLATOR and skilled professionals.
Recently, Eskayef Oncology has touched another milestone with anticancer medicines as it has become one of the few Asian companies to achieve approval from the prestigious global regulatory body, European Union Good Manufacturing Practice (EU GMP) for anti-cancer drugs, he said.
The EU GMP is recognised by the 27 nations of the EU is considered a passport for entry to the global market. Eskayef can now produce both oral and injectable anticancer medicines maintaining the standard of the EU regulator.
"With all the latest technologies, facilities and our earnest commitment, Eskayef Oncology is determined to serve humanity of Bangladesh and across the world with its affordable, global-standard anti-cancer products," said Dr Shahriar.