Unsung heroes fight a dread disease

  • The PEC is prominent in cancer treatment


By Muhammad Aftab Alam


History is replete with heroic acts of humans who devoted their lives for their fellow beings, expecting nothing in return except acknowledgment and appreciation as reward for their life-long struggle. It is also a fact universally acknowledged that nations pay rich tributes to their heroes, once their larger-than-life deeds are discovered by all and sundry.

However, there are a few unsung heroes who serve their fellow beings neither for any worldly reward nor even for appreciation. For them, it is nothing more than a labour of love.

The untiring services of these unsung heroes rarely ever make the headline of a newspaper or a flash on the screen of a television channel. They are born of humble origin, are bred in modest circumstances and die a silent death. Neither drummers to receive them on entry, nor trumpeters to mark their exit. They are made from the clay of a different predisposition and their dough is devoid of the common human instinct of being renowned and recognised.

The only acknowledgment these unsung heroes ever receive, is reflected through the eyes of their patients and their attendants. The ray of hope beaming in those grateful eyes is a trophy enough as memorial for these marshals.

You might be wondering where to meet such heroes. Visit any cancer hospital of the country and you are sure to find plenty of them around. Deeply engrossed in the reports of their patients, diagnosing, prescribing and giving expert advice, you will hardly ever find these messiahs taking a break. And their patients also deserve a word of appreciation for putting up a brave show in the long battle against one of the deadliest diseases of human history– cancer.

Treatment planning, radiation-dose calculations, tumour marking and treatment field assessment are the core features of cancer treatment. These facilities are available at all PAEC cancer treatment centres

Besides some champions in private sector who are mostly pursuing the noble cause of defeating cancer by dint of charity, the public sector is shouldering the major burden of cancer treatment in Pakistan. Among others, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), one of the most respected organisations in Pakistan– for its unmatched contribution in making defence of the country impregnable, is the torch-bearer in the fight against cancer.

PAEC has so far established 18 cancer hospitals in all provinces and major cities of the country, while construction of the 19th hospital in Gilgit has recently commenced. These hospitals provide diagnostic and therapeutic facilities to patients at subsidised rates. In these hospitals, hope is in the air. If you ever happen to lose hope for lack of funds, the same is kindled by generous support from either the Patient Welfare Society (PWS) of the hospital or Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM).

The stage of cancer is also not an impediment to treatment at these hospitals. Unlike most of the cancer hospitals, which prefer to send those patients home who are at an advanced stage of the disease, PAEC-run cancer hospitals have the slogan of ‘death with dignity’. Here, patients are treated till they breathe their last. The brave oncologists at these hospitals consider it a sin to lose hope. And the results are miraculous, as portrayed by the high survival rate in these patients. These daring unsung heroes in the field of medicine and their brave survivors prove that faith, hope, as well as an appropriate and timely intervention, can lead to successful treatment of ailment as horrific as cancer.

Nuclear Medicine, Oncology & Radiotherapy Institute (NORI) Islamabad, is one of the eighteen cancer hospitals being run under the aegis of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). The role of PAEC in the health sector is commendable as over 800,000 cancer patients get diagnostic and treatment facilities at these hospitals each year.

If you happen to live in the capital, visit NORI hospital and do meet its director Dr Mohammad Faheem and Head Oncology and Radiotherapy Dr Humera Mahmood. They represent the scores of others like them who are putting up a heroic fight against cancer on behalf of ailing humanity. They organise public awareness lectures regularly to stress that one-third of cancers can be prevented by quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They also stress on the importance of early detection of cancer.

These two and scores of others serving in different cancer hospitals of the country are the unsung saviours of humanity and the true ambassadors of hope for the ailing community and deserve a salute of recognition from the nation for their untiring efforts to fight out cancer from the society. In this regard, the services of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission also owe recognition as a responsible organisation serving cancer patients as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). We must acknowledge the noble cause and expect the same from other organisations of national repute.

PAEC gives high priority to the application of nuclear technology in health sector. Through its 18 medical centres spread all over the country, patients receive state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment facilities either free of charge or at subsidised rates. PAEC Nuclear Medicine and Oncology (NM&O) Hospitals are also involved in the national cancer awareness and prevention programme. They provide diagnostic studies and therapeutic applications. Apart from diagnostic imaging studies, radioimmunoassay has made it possible to manage, in a more scientific manner, patients with diseases affecting various other glands. Therapeutic services by Nuclear Medicine include: treatment of thyrotoxicosis, thyroid cancer and palliation for bone pains.

Radiation and medical treatment is provided at all NM&O Hospitals to all types of cancer patients irrespective of stages of the disease. The contribution of PAEC through its integrated programme in radiotherapy of different kinds of cancer and allied diseases, has received considerable acclaim in the public.

Treatment planning, radiation-dose calculations, tumour marking and treatment field assessment are the core features of cancer treatment. These facilities are available at all PAEC cancer treatment centres. Doctors and medical physicists from various hospitals receive trainings at these NM&O centres for FCPS, DMRT and MS programmes. The volume of services contributed by these hospitals in health sector can be gauged by knowing the fact that these cancer hospitals established in every nook and corner of Pakistan are treating 80 per cent of the cancer patients in the country.


The writer can be reached at [email protected]