* story of syeda z. noor

Exactly two years ago when I first published the following article in hope to find some answers, didn’t know I would still be searching for same answers.  This time I hope women will come forward and talk openly breast cancer & about the stigma that is attached to being a breast cancer survivor, and hope  in the process we can build a support network for ourselves. Please join in the discussion.


(First published October 17, 2006)

This post is dedicated to Ms. Syeda Z. Noor – a daughter, a sister, a wife, a loving mother of three sons & a daughter, a grandmother, and a role model for many in her community. She was the Principal of a Girl’s College in Dhaka, who retired in 2000, diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2003, and passed away in December 2005. For last couple years the Pink Ribbon has taken a shape of her whom I wish I met. ~ Shahnaz

During the month of October in US, it is hard not to notice the ˜Pink Ribbon” which symbolizes Breast Cancer every where we look. The campaign against breast cancer doesn’t stop only in advertising, the information about the disease and prevention is easily accessible at the hospitals, clinics and of course on the internet.

According to the American Cancer Society, over 215,000 women in USA are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. A person over the age of 50 accounts for 75% of breast cancer cases, the cancer is treatable and there is over a 96% five-year survival rate when breast cancer is caught before it spreads to other parts of the body.

So it seemed a little bleak when I was unsuccessful to find any information regards to Bangladeshi women on the same topic when I searched the net. Even my acquaintances at the medical field echoed the same feelings of despair, one physician responded’I searched all possible databases. We don’t have any published database on breast cancer. If there are some statistics compiled in last two years, those are not published yet. Absence of any database is itself is the worst possible statistics you can come up with.

Then I heard from my friend Pusha, who said, So far what I found only said that an estimated 17% of reported cancer cases among Bangladesh women are breast cancer patients. At the same time they say that the reason they cannot be absolutely certain is because there might be unreported cases as well specially in the villages for instance.

To say the least, my search for statistics, or to find names of hospitals, clinics or organizations which specializes on Breast Cancer in Bangladesh is not easily accessible on the internet.

Then I called my friend for whom the subject was very close to his heart, he lost his mother from breast cancer last year. Considering his recent ordeal, I wanted to make sure it was okay to discuss his loss with our readers, he said, Yes, of course, ˜awareness is the first step to conquer the disease, I want to share my experience, especially since in our culture we don’t talk about this, and we must.’

He told me, first few months when his mother discussed her pain with the doctors, they shrugged it off as a normal pain due to old age, they suggested her to take vitamins, or to walk off the pain. The retired Principal was anything but inactive in her life; yet, numerous trips to the doctors and complains about her pain didn’t alarmed anyone to recommend her to a mammogram test. By the time someone noticed the tumors on her body, it was too late; the cancer had spread through her body, Months of oversight of the local physicians prompted the family to take her to Singapore and then to Malaysia for treatment, she seemed to do better with chemotherapy, but, due to logistical concerns she was back in Bangladesh, and started her treatment all over again.  My friend wasn’t sure if it was the arrogance or ignorance on the part of the doctors who disregarded her previous treatment and started new medicine. Her health started deteriorating. Soon she was in coma, and in a month all her pain and suffering ended when silently bid final farewell to her loved ones.

I don’t know if it’s the oversight of our health professionals, or our hesitation to talk about the disease which prevents us from getting the information which we need to reduce our risk.  As my friend requested we must bring this topic to the open, we need talk to our physicians, especially if when we are over 40, or have a family history of breast cancer, we need to ask our physicians what steps we should take to reduce our risks. We need to learn and share with others. We need to take care of ourselves, take care of our family and our loved ones, because we all deserve it.


About this blog

Adhunika blog is launched with a mission to share knowledge among women from every walk of life. Sometime it would be in the form of sharing experience to find a feasible solution of a problem; sometime it would be in the form of professional consultation, which Adhunika group will arrange for its bloggers. Nevertheless, the intent of this blog always remains the same - to help and empower women through a common web-based platform....read more



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