The Story of Free Cancer Care in Pakistan

In February 1985, after a long and agonising struggle, Imran Khan lost his mother to cancer. Little did he know that the most painful event of his life would pave the way for a hospital in her name that continues to provide hope for millions today. Today, the cricket legend and Prime Minister of Pakistan is also the founding chairman of Imran Khan Cancer Appeal and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. This is the story of how his loss changed the lives of thousands.

Shaukat Khanum

Hailing from a family of proficient cricketers, and one Sufi Warrior Poet for an ancestor, Shaukat Khanum was a woman who was proud of her heritage. Hers was a pride she instilled in her five children, along with dignity and an iron resolve. In February 1985, Shaukat Khanum’s family lost her to cancer. She was 63 years old. Imran Khan was her only son.

For Imran Khan, the devastation of his mother’s death was secondary to watching her suffer through her struggle with cancer. The ordeal revealed a jarring reality: Pakistan had a dearth of medical resources when it came to treating cancer and this was costing lives. During the time spent with his mother in cancer wards, Imran Khan also witnessed the distress of other patients. He was especially troubled by those with limited  means. How, he questioned, do the poor cope with a disease that is so debilitating to patients and their families? After his mother passed away, Imran Khan decided that irrespective of their background, everyone deserved an equal chance at life.

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Cricket and the fight against Cancer

On November 10 1989, at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, Imran Khan made his first fundraising appeal during a cricket match between India and Pakistan. It helped get the ball rolling for a series of further fundraisers that went global. The idea of a hospital providing free cancer care was laughable to most but Imran Khan wasn’t discouraged. Two years later, Pakistan’s win under his captaincy at the 1992 Cricket World Cup in Melbourne gave the appeal that boost it needed. The response was phenomenal, with £1.5 million collected in just six weeks. Imran Khan donated the entire sum of his own prize money to the project and continued to campaign until construction for the hospital was underway.

A new hope for Pakistan

In 1994, following five years of fundraising, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital was established in Lahore and Pakistan’s biggest cancer charity was born. As a comprehensive care facility dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, it was a first in Pakistan. Read More about Shaukat Khanum Hospital.

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27 years on

In two and a half decades we’ve changed the face of cancer care in Pakistan. Together, we’ve established:

  • Diagnostics Centres nationwide
  • Outreach Screening Clinics nationwide
  • Two Cancer Hospitals in Lahore and Peshawar
  • 91 Laboratory Collection Centres across 42 cities

We were the first hospital in Pakistan to procure and PET CT scan, and the first to perform a bone marrow transplant in a £14,000 procedure, but at no cost to the patient whose treatment was sponsored by an anonymous donor. To date, we’ve spent in excess of £307 million on providing free cancer care in Pakistan. Find out More.

Today we’re building a third cancer hospital in Karachi. Find out more about how you can support the project, and why we rely on your Sadaqah to bring free cancer care to Karachi.

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