Breast Cancer: The No.1 Killer in Women

12 October 2019

Breast Cancer: The No.1 Killer in Women

The number of women undergoing mammogram examination for breast cancer in Malaysia is still low compared to the West like in the United States (US). Nearly 50% of women in Malaysia are diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer compared to 5% in the US. A study found that only 8% to 14% of women in Selangor have ever done a mammogram examination.

Sunway Medical Centre, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Dr Nik Muhd Aslan Abdullah said failure to early detect breast cancer made the disease the number one killer of women in Malaysia.

Mammograms are strongly recommended to detect early breast tumours in women over 40 years old. However, screening rates are still low in the country and most patients who are receiving treatment have late stage cancer.

“Early detection allows more effective treatment to be given, which increases the chance of recovery,” Dr Nik Muhd Aslan said.

He said, compared to mammograms, self-examination of breast cancer is inaccurate as the tumour may have grown between two and three centimetres. Therefore, women over 40, especially those with family history of the disease, should go for mammogram examinations once or twice a year.

Women under the age of 40 who are at high risk may opt to undergo a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) as an additional test. They are also advised to consult breast cancer surgeons. There is more than 90% chance of recovery if it is diagnosed early.

Not all cancers require chemotherapy; it depends on the stage of cancer and the histological features of the cancer. If the cancer is still in the first stage and presents good risk factors, sometimes it is only necessary to remove the tumour and undergo radiotherapy or through medication.

The primary treatment of breast cancer is through tumour removal surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, depending on the stage of cancer. It differs from lymphoma which primary treatment is chemotherapy while nasal cancer or nasopharynx requires radiotherapy.

“However, 20% to 30% of patients refuse chemotherapy treatment for fear of side effects and because they lack encouragement from family and those closest to them. The lump will grow and spread to other organs without chemotherapy. There is also this most aggressive type of breast cancer known as 'triple breast cancer', which is difficult to treat if diagnosed at a late stage,” Dr Nik Muhd Aslan said.

Keeping in high spirits, maintaining positivity and practising a good diet help to promote treatment and reduce side effects. Healthy eating habits include avoiding fatty foods and sugars and eating lots of vegetables and fruits, as well as exercising.

Dr Nik Muhd Aslan advises patients to avoid taking alternative medicines or combining hospital drugs which could worsen their cancer.

“Anyone can get cancer which is caused by environmental pollution, genetics, diet and unhealthy lifestyle. The safest way is to detect cancer early as it can be treated and the chance of healing is higher,” he said.

Source: Berita Harian