Breast Cancer On The Rise In Young People

27 April 2022

The Ministry of Health revealed that one in nine women in the country is likely to have cancer. Of the women, 33.9% had breast cancer, 10.7% had colorectal cancer and 6.2% had cervical cancer.

Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City Consultant Clinical Oncologist Dr Aqilah Othman said the situation is becoming more worrying as the trend of breast cancer has changed with more women under 40 being diagnosed with cancer.

“The numbers are increasing without us knowing the cause. The same goes for female patients with colorectal or colon cancer. Generally, many patients between the ages of 20 and 40 have been diagnosed with cancer, and some of my patients have breast cancer even though they are in their early 20s,” she said.

Dr Aqilah adds that some considerations need to be made when providing treatment to young cancer patients especially in matters relation to fertility and plans to have children.

“Breast cancer treatment involves chemotherapy and radiotherapy and for young patients, we need to know if they have children and if they are planning to have more so that their treatment can be personalised to preserve fertility. And if necessary, they are referred to a fertility specialist.”

In this case, targeted treatment will be considered especially for genetically related cases to ensure that the cancer cells do not spread.

“Treatment also differ between young and older patients because it needs to be adjusted according to their age, stage of cancer, probability of recurrence and other factors. We need to look at the characteristics of the cancer itself as it differs for every person, the optimal treatment and the patient’s level of resilience,” Dr Aqilah said.

She adds that it is worrying when young people are being diagnosed late due to their age, when they come forward to seek treatment at a serious stage.

“A lump in the breast is difficult to detect is you are examining yourself at an early stage because a lump can be felt usually when it is about 1.5cm to 2cm. This is different from women in their 40s who go for mammogram screenings where it can be detected even if it is still small in size.”

Early detected and treatment at stage one and two has a higher recovery rate, she adds, saying that breast conditions will sometimes show changes in the skin such as being pulled in, redness or pimples and changes in breast shape.

Dr Aqilah shared her experience treating a patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her mid-20s who was initially unsure to undergo treatment as her family and friends encouraged her to change her diet and try alternative methods in hopes that her cancer would cure itself.

“This girl, like most other women, are afraid to undergo treatment but after changing her diet for four weeks, she returned to the hospital for a scan and it was found that her cancer cells had grown.

“Looking at how fast the cancer grew, she agreed to undergo chemotherapy and after completing a cycle of targeted treatment, her lump had shrunk in just three weeks. Surgery was performed after she completed chemotherapy.

“While in treatment, I advised her to exercise and continue her daily activities as much as possible. She had hair loss from chemotherapy but I assured her that it was temporary,” Dr Aqilah said.

Dr Aqilah even managed to encourage her to turn her sewing hobby into a business and she has started selling turbans on social media to inspire other breast cancer patients.

“Family and friends who previously disagreed for her to undergo treatment began giving their full support to her who is now living more positively, healthily and free from cancer,” she said, adding that nothing is more rewarding for a doctor than seeing their patients recover.

“Support is very important especially when patients are in treatment. Side effects are usually temporarily and when detected early, most patients have a high recovery chance.”

Source: Berita Harian