Komorebi Post– the Institute of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine (IRNUM)- the oldest cancer treatment facility in KP province, estimated receiving 5,000 cancer patients annually. The number raises to about 10,000 to 15,000 cancer cases are reported annually on the whole province.

Dr Yasir from the Oncology Department of Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar said that there were 18 patients admitted in an 18-bed ward at the hospital currently.

Our hospital is state-run, this is why it receives more patients due to its free treatment, compared to private hospitals that offer a very costly treatment of cancer,”

Muhammad Naeem, 33, travelled from Afghanistan and crossed the border into Pakistan for cancer treatment. Nowadays he lies on a bed in Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

I haven’t even informed my family about the fact that I am undergoing treatment for cancer in a hospital located in the neighboring country,” Naeem told Komorebi Post. He said that a few months ago, he developed pain in his stomach and visited several doctors in his native country Afghanistan and was asked to approach the SKMCH.

He said that cancer carries stigma, this is why he does not inform his relatives back home in Afghanistan about his ongoing cancer treatment.

I am grateful to government of Pakistan and Shaukat Khanum hospital for the treatment. I am feeling much better now, compared to the past,” he said.

Shaukat Khanum hospital

A child named Mahdi, three years and eight months old, accompanied by his father Muhammad Zakarya, was also seen lying on a bed in the facility. Zakarya said that he took his son to a health facility in Afghanistan where he was asked to shift the baby to SKMCH.

We have been staying in this hospital since January and medical experts have informed us that we have to stay here for another seven or eight months to completely treat cancer of my child,” he added.

The SKMCH, a health facility set up by Imran Khan – the current prime minister of Pakistan – is run via donations. The Deputy Manager Fundraising at SKMCH, Ajmal Khan, said that the facility receives about 100,000 cancer patients annually.

“We have ‘walking clinics’ where patients are checked without charging them any fee,” he said. “And even if a patient is tested positive, then we meet with his/her and also inquire about his family and financial conditions before giving him fee concession, which can even go up to 75 percent.”

He said that treatment of a patient, whose cancer is in stage-one, can cost up to 1.5 million [Pakistani] rupees while the serious patients beyond the stage-one may cost up to 5 million rupees.

Dr Shahid Zia, a consultant for internal medicine and pulmonology at SKMCH, says that there can be different causes behind various kinds of cancer.

“Smoking, preservatives, additives and other unhygienic elements in foods can be the reasons,” he said, “Even hepatitis can also lead to liver cancer.”

However, he said it is not contagious and people should not be afraid of this. “Almost 20 percent of our cancer patients are from our neighboring country Afghanistan. It remains to be seen [through research] if the bomb blasts and war in Afghanistan is also a reason behind growing cancer cases there.”

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