Afghanistan: No chemo available for Herat’s breast cancer patients

Doctors in Herat said that the only oncology center in the province is dealing with a severe shortage of medicine and no chemo facilities amid a sharp rise in breast cancer cases in the western provinces in the past year.

According to doctors, they have recorded a 30 percent increase in the number of breast cancer cases in this time.

The doctors warned that the number could rise further and it could have a negative impact on communities if patients with the disease are not treated.

Farooq Sediqi, head of the oncology center in Herat, said five out of 10 patients he sees daily are diagnosed with breast cancer.

The issue is due to a lack of awareness among women, the doctor said, adding that when in its acute phase, patients usually travel abroad for chemotherapy due to lack of treatment in the country, especially in the western zone.

“Also, the lack of proper food is another reason behind an increase in breast cancer among women who usually visit us when they are in stage four, which is acute. In this case, they would have to go abroad for treatment because of the lack of chemotherapy facilities in the country,” Sediqi explained.

A number of patients with breast cancer have said however that the cost of treatment outside the country is unaffordable. They have appealed to the Taliban authorities to help establish treatment facilities in Afghanistan.

“Despite being in a bad economic condition, I have no choice but to go abroad for treatment because it is not possible within the country,” said Zahra, a resident of western Ghor province, who has been a patient at the oncology center in Herat city.

Suhaila, another patient, said she cannot afford to pay for her trip abroad to get treatment.

“Each of my prescriptions are 5,000 to 6,000 Afs ($57 to $69) and it is too expensive for me. I seek the government’s help in this respect,” said Suhaila.

Taliban officials from the Herat Public Health Directorate said that efforts are underway to raise awareness among people about breast cancer.

The directorate has registered 6,680 cases of women with breast cancer in recent years and said 360 of them went abroad for treatment, said Mohammad Asif Kabir, a Taliban spokesman for the public health directorate in Herat.

Figures by the World Health Organization show that one out of eight women in the world deal with breast cancer.