Breast Cancer Awareness Month message: Keep abreast of change
Breast cancer rates rise, yet only 1 in 3 aged 50 to 69 goes for screening. Expert says women give too many excuses
Sales representative Joan Ng, 51, thought she did everything right to keep healthy. She exercised, ate right and checked her breasts for lumps regularly.
Yet in 2009, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and had to undergo four cycles of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the lump and another five weeks of radiation.
Ms Ng, who sells ball bearings for a Japanese company, was on a business trip in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when she discovered the hard lump in her right breast after a shower.
"After I came back and was referred to a specialist, I was stunned when he told me that it was Stage 3," she told The New Paper.
"For years, I had been doing self-examination of my breasts. There was nothing.
"Then this hard lump, the size of a small marble, suddenly appeared.
"There was no pain."
Stage 3 breast cancer is a more advanced form of invasive breast cancer, where the cells are present in several underarm lymph nodes.
According to the National Registry of Diseases Office, one in 11 women in Singapore will suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime, yet only one in three of those aged 50 to 69 was screened in the last two years, said National University Cancer Institute's senior consultant breast surgeon Chan Ching Wan.
Dr Chan, who is the chairman of this year's Breast Cancer Awareness Month Organising Committee, told a media conference yesterday that the screening rates for breast cancer here "has reached a plateau".
"But the rate of women getting the disease continues to rise, with three times more women getting breast cancer than, say, 40 years ago," she said.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women here, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of all cancer cases.
More than 9,200 women were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2010 and 2014.
Mammography remains the gold standard screening technique and offers an effective way to detect breast cancer early.
However, Breast Cancer Foundation president Noor Quek said that women tend to give excuses such as "too busy with work, no time or too far" for not taking up the screening.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month starts today and focuses on encouraging women to "keep abreast of change".
To encourage more women aged 50 and older to go for regular mammograms, screening will be offered free to those who have the Community Health Assist Scheme card.
This is offered at the 17 centres partaking in the SG50 Cancer Screening Initiative till the end of the year.
Singapore Cancer Society will also be distributing Pink Cards, which gives $25 funding help to eligible women who book their mammograms at 40 participating clinics this month.
GrabCar, the app-based car with driver service, will also provide up to $8 discounts on rides to the screening centres, so no more excuses about getting there.
Ms Ng, who has taken her life back after her cancer was caught and treated in time, advised women to go get screened for early detection.
"That way, the chances for survival will be higher, and recovery faster," she said.
5 Breast cancer myths busted
What are the facts and fiction of breast cancer?
National University Cancer Institute's Senior Consultant Breast Surgeon Chan Ching Wan gives the real deal on risks, symptoms and more.
1 "Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer."
TRUTH: Only one in 10 breast lumps turns out to be cancerous. But any change in the breast is usually a cause for concern. If you discover a persistent lump in your breast, see a doctor for a medical check-up to be sure.
2 "Breast cancer happens only to women who are well-endowed."
TRUTH: Not true. As long as you have breasts, you are a candidate for breast cancer. Men do get diagnosed with breast cancer, even though the number may be small.
3 "Breast cancer happens only in older women."
TRUTH: "While it is true that the risk of breast cancer increases with age, it can strike at any age."
4 "If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer."
TRUTH: Not true. While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, it is not a guarantee that they will get breast cancer. Only about one in 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer has a family history of this disease."
5 "Going for a mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread."
TRUTH: It is not true that getting a mammogram or having the breasts compressed during a mammogram can cause cancer to spread. Neither can taking a biopsy of the growth in the breast cause cancer to spread.