BBC News – UK South Asian women ‘hiding cancer because of stigma’

Amber Haque

London, 9 August 2017. A number of UK women from South Asian backgrounds who have cancer hide it because of a perceived stigma about the disease, the BBC has learned.

One woman chose to “suffer on [her] own” through chemotherapy for fear of her family’s reaction, and questioned whether God was punishing her.

Experts said others were seeking help too late, causing preventable deaths.

In one case a woman sought treatment only when her breast was rotten. She later died as the cancer had spread.

‘Very dark days’

Pravina Patel, who told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme about her own experience, stumbled upon a lump in her breast when she was 36.

She grew up in a strict Indian community where even talking about the disease was considered shameful. When she was diagnosed, she decided to hide it.

“I just thought if people hear the fact that I’ve got cancer, they’re going to think it’s a death sentence,” she said.

She remembered worrying that people would say she had lived a “bad life” and God was punishing her for it.

Ms Patel continued to keep the disease a secret when seeking treatment, saying she felt “extremely lonely” during chemotherapy.

“I was going through chemo sessions on my own… I had some very dark days,” she explained.

Pooja Saini, the lead researcher at CLAHRC North-West Coast, a research arm of the NHS that looks into health inequalities, said her own review into the issue “really surprised” her.

“Some women went to the extent of not even having treatment because, if they went, people would know as they’d lose their hair,” she explained.

She added others “feared it might affect their children because no-one would want to marry them”.

It is difficult to say how widespread the problem was, because little information has been collected on ethnicity and mortality.

But in 2014, research from Bridgewater NHS found Asian women between 15 and 64 years old had a significantly reduced survival rate for breast cancer of three years.

Ms Saini said her research suggests the influence of men in the family and elders in the wider community may be contributing to the issue.

“If they didn’t think women should go for screening, then they didn’t go,” she said.

Cultural expectations

The stigma surrounding cancer in South Asian communities spans different forms of the disease.

Ms Patel said there was a reluctance for women to go for a smear test because they did not want to be “defiled” or be considered “no longer pure”.

She has now completed her chemotherapy and is in remission.

Ms Patel and her husband got divorced during her treatment, something she says was partly because of cultural expectations about how a wife should be.

Some experts are concerned that women are suffering unnecessarily.

South Asian women are more likely to be from poor, deprived backgrounds, meaning their levels of awareness of cancer are likely to be lower.

National screening statistics show people from ethnic minority communities do not go for screening as much as their white counterparts.

Madhu Agarwal, a cancer support manager who has worked in the field of cancer for more than 30 years, fears this is leading to South Asian women dying unnecessarily.

“Because of the ignorance of not presenting early, not examining the breasts… the disease has already spread [when they do seek help] and it’s very difficult to manage it with treatment.

“Then the mortality is high, so there is a stigma attached, that when you get cancer you’re going to die.”

She said one of her patients had come for treatment so late that her breast was “fungating” and “rotten”.

She recalled: “It was smelling so much that you couldn’t even sit next to it.”

The woman, who had young children, died because the cancer had by then spread to other parts of her body, Ms Agarwal explained.

The Victoria Derbyshire programme has heard several other accounts of the effects the stigma surrounding cancer can have.

Samina Hussain said one of her family told her to wear hijab to hide her cancer, saying “you can cover this up now”.

Iyna Butt said her aunt refused chemotherapy as she felt “God had given [cancer] to her”.

‘Help save women’

Ms Saini is now calling for more data on screening uptake by ethnicity to be recorded, so findings can be used to provide more tailored support to communities.

Public Health England’s screening director Anne Mackie said when Ms Saini’s research is published it will look to implement its suggestions.

“We’ve got every reason to believe that will help save women from [South] Asian backgrounds’ lives as well as others from deprived backgrounds,” she said.

Advertisements – India promises clearance for Sikh jathas visiting Nankana Sahib for November Gurpurab

Sikh24 Editors

Ferozepur-Panjab-India, 8 August 2017. Ending uncertainty surrounding access for pilgrimage to Gurdwara Sri Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, the President of the International Bhai Mardana Kirtan Darbar Society, Sardar Harpal Singh Bhullar has clarified that Sikh Jathas will visit the historical Sikh shrine in November, 2017 to celebrate 548th birth anniversary of the Sikh master, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

He confirmed that the society has established contact with the Foreign Ministry in this concern and the Additional Secretary of Foreign Ministry has ensured them of granting clearance.

He said that the interested Sikh devotees can submit their passports at society’s office in Ferozepur before August 18. He further informed that the Sikh devotees will also be made to have glimpse of Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib, Gurdwara Dehra Sahib Lahore, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Narowal), Gurdwara Rauri Sahib, Gurdwara Chakki Sahib, Bhai Lalo Di Khuhi at Aimnabad during the journey.

Sardar Harpal Singh Bhullar further informed that the Society has also appealed the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) to raise the quota of visas from 3000 to 4000 on birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, 1000 to 1500 from martyrdom anniversary of Guru Srjan Dev Ji and 500 to 750 on death anniversary of Mahraja Ranjit Singh.

Den Haag: Delftselaan – Scheepersstraat Gurdwara

13 Juli 2017


Sri Ravi Das Tempel

Sri Ravi Das Tempel
Delftselaan 105
2512 RC Den Haag

Scheepersstraat Gurdwara
13 Juli 2017

Nishan Sahib

Gurdwara Singh Sabha Den Haag

Gurdwara Singh Sabha
Scheepersstraat 54
2572 AL Den Haag

To see all my pictures:

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – No place to worship for Hindus, Sikhs in Islamabad

Capital Development Authority (CDA) spokesman denies any religious discrimination

Raja Faisal

Islamabad, 9 August 2017. Pakistan’s capital city still awaits the temples of Hindu and Sikh community; however, the efforts are being made for acquiring land for Hindu temple by Hindu representatives in National Assembly.

Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials informed Pakistan Today that Sikh community leaders have not even applied for a Sikh temple in Islamabad.

Capital city symbolizes the unity of a nation. It is supposed to represent all the cultures and religions of a country. Capital cities of the modern world are equipped to accommodate people of diversities.

Islamabad is inhabited by approximately 2,000 Hindus and 500 Sikhs. Both the communities worship as well as celebrate their occasions of Holi, Diwali and Baisakhi in each other’s houses. The communities do not have their places of worship in Islamabad.

Hindus are 2 per cent of the population of Pakistan who mainly reside in Sindh, whereas the Sikhs are approximately 20,000 in the number who mainly reside in the interior Punjab and KP.

“We did not get possession of the land for Hindu Temple in Islamabad. We are in dire need of a temple as many Hindus have recently migrated from Sindh to the capital city for business and job purposes,” said Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA from Larkana Ramesh Lal.

CDA records show that the Hindu representatives, after the initial application for a temple land, did not follow the due process for the possession of the allocated land.

“We are here to help people without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religious beliefs,” said CDA Spokesman Mazhar Hussain.

He further added that the initial application of the Hindu community was accepted instantly and land for Hindu Temple in H-9 was allocated.

There is a certain process to follow for the possession of the allotted land but the CDA did not receive any documentation from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Hindu representatives also didn’t pursue the matter.

“CDA would welcome applications from representatives of these communities seeking land for Hindu temple and Sikh gurdwara,” concluded the spokesman.

Dawn – Shahbaz Sharif to head PML-N after ECP asks Nawaz Sharif to step down from party position

Muhammad Bilal

Islamabad, 8 August 2017. Senior PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq on Tuesday said that a decision has been taken to elect Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as the party president.

While giving an interview to BBC Urdu, the party’s Leader of House in the Senate said that a formal announcement regarding this will be made in a day or two.

“The younger Sharif has been selected to replace Nawaz based on the wishes of a majority of party members,” Haq was quoted as saying.

Earlier in the day, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued a notice to the PML-N for the appointment of a new party leader, DawnNews reported.

The ECP in the notice said that under the Political Parties Order 2002, a disqualified lawmaker cannot hold any office in a political party.

The notification also referred to the Supreme Court order on the Panama Papers case, in which Nawaz Sharif was formally asked to step down as prime minister.

The ECP also observed that Article 15 of the PML-N’s own party constitution says that if the seat of party president is vacant, it is to be filled within one week’s time

The election body asked the PML-N to elect a new party leader and then inform the ECP.

Shortly after the ECP’s notification was issued, DawnNews reported that the PML-N was holding a high-level meeting of senior party members, including Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar.

The notice comes a day before Nawaz Sharif is set to travel from Islamabad to his hometown Lahore in what is set to be a ‘historic’ two-day rally undertaken by the PML-N and ousted prime minister to garner much-needed political mileage in the face of the challenges its government is facing.

Nawaz’s rival, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, on Monday had urged the PML-N to distance itself from the ousted premier, warning that it would “ruin itself” if it did not do so.

Khan had also alleged that Sharif’s plan to travel to Lahore with a cavalcade on GT Road was a “deliberate attempt to undermine the Supreme Court” by calling into question its verdict in the Panama Papers case.

Sharif, while discussing the case with television anchors yesterday, said that the procession was not “a protest” but “a journey back home” that he was undertaking because “risks need to be taken for the country”.