The recently issued report of the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2021 has highlighted the federal and provincial governments’ efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic as well as the steps taken by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) to help treat cancer patients.
The survey report said the PAEC has given high priority to the application of nuclear technology in the health sector, especially utilizing radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer.
It said the PAEC established its first nuclear medical center at Karachi’s Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and now there are 18 operational Atomic Energy Cancer Hospitals (AECHs) dedicated to serving poor cancer patients not only in cities but also in areas like DI Khan, Swat and Nawabshah.
“They are diligently working to provide the latest and comprehensive diagnostic and treatment facilities to cancer patients irrespective of the stage of the disease.”
“The AECHs are operated by skilled teams of more than 2,500 professionals, including doctors, scientists, engineers, paramedical, technical, and other support staff.’
It said another AECH is being constructed at Gilgit Baltistan. Work has been started for the establishment of three more such centers in Mardan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Balochistan.
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The report said management of cancer patients requires a multidisciplinary approach and is an expensive affair. The Nuclear Medicine & Oncology Division of the PAEC is working on establishing a cancer registry representing data from all 18 AECH.
In addition to the management of patients, Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) has been started at the AECH Lahore. Commissioning of a new medical linear accelerator (Linac) installed at AECH Larkana has been completed.
“Gamma Camera for AECH Gilgit has been purchased. Five Co-60 radiotherapy machines have been purchased for AECHs Islamabad.
“Provision of teaching and training facilities is ensured for about 500 postgraduate medical students/fellows in fields of nuclear medicine, radiation and mobile breast care clinics for screening.”
The report said the number of cancer cases is rising in the country. The PAEC’s 18 cancer hospitals in four provinces are already providing diagnosis and treatment facilities to cancer patients.
“Recently efforts were made to establish the cancer registry at the national level with the support of other stakeholders at the national and provincial levels,” the report added.
According to the survey, the Covid-19 pandemic reached Pakistan on February 26, 2020, when the first patient in Karachi tested positive. Since then, the pandemic has spread through foreign and domestic transfusion.
“However, due to timely measures taken by the government in collaboration with the provinces, the outbreak has so far been prevented from getting worse,” it said.