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1 in 19 Malaysian Women Are At Risk Of Breast Cancer

WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the lobules or ducts become abnormal and divide uncontrollably. It is currently the most common form of cancer affecting Malaysian women as 1 in 19 women are at risk, compared to one in eight for Europe and the US of getting breast cancer.

HOW MANY MALAYSIAN WOMEN ARE AFFECTED?

In 2003, 64% of all new breast cancer cases were among women between the age of 40 to 60 years old. 40% of all reported cases in Malaysia, most were already in the advanced stages of the disease.

Malaysia anticipates a 49% increase in breast cancer from 2012 to 2025. The increase in breast cancer cases is not the only worrying factor, as Malaysia reports a lower five-year survival rate compared to other Asian countries at only 63%, whereas South Korea reports a 92% survival rate and Singapore at 80%.

WHAT SYMPTOMS DO I LOOK OUT FOR?

Signs and symptoms that you should look out for are:

  • A breast lump or thickening on the surrounding tissue
  • Change is physical size, shape and appearance
  • Changes to the skin over the breast
  • Newly inverted nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of the skin, surrounding the nipple or breast skin
  • Redness of pitting

CAN IT BE PREVENTED?

The earlier it is detected the better. The best way to ensure that you beat breast cancer is to be breast aware – understanding and knowing how your breast looks under normal circumstances, seeking medical advice when something is out of the ordinary.

HOW DO I DETECT IT EARLY?

Early screening helps to identify cancers before they start to cause symptoms. Reduce your risk of breast cancer by taking proactive steps and strategize your approach to treatment.

  • Ask your doctor about breast cancer screening – Screening refers to tests and examinations used to detect cancer, especially for those with no known symptoms. Clinical breast exams and mammograms are the best way to do this. See screening packages.
  • Familiarise yourselves with your breasts through self-examination – Though breast awareness cannot prevent breast cancer, understanding normal changes and identifying unusual signs or symptoms to help prompt doctor consultation.

WHAT IS MAMMOGRAPHY?

A mammogram helps in early detection and diagnosis of breast disease. Able to pick up small tumours even before they can be detected as a lump, a diagnostic mammogram is used to diagnose breast disease in women who have symptoms, while screening mammography is used for women who are asymptomatic.

Though mammogram may not prevent breast cancer, it saves lives through early detection.

HOW ARE MAMMOGRAPHS PERFORMED?

Previously, mammography uses analogue mammograms where images are printed on film. Digital mammography is the next step for the screening of early stage breast cancer, allowing healthcare professionals to capture and manipulate images to get a clearer picture.

For mammograms, the breast is compressed between 2 plates to flatten and spread the tissue lasting a few seconds to produce a good and readable mammogram.

The result will be interpreted by a radiologist on the lookout for:

  • Macrocalcification – Coarse calcium deposits representing degenerative changes in the breasts
  • Microcalcification – Tiny specks of calcium in the breasts.
  • Mass – That can be caused by benign breast conditions or by breast cancer
  • Cyst – Confirmation of a mass that is really a cyst through breast ultrasound or removal of fluid with a needle.

WHEN CAN I GET IT DONE?

The recommended age for you to get yearly mammograms begin at the age of 40. However, if you are of higher risk of breast cancer, consult a doctor to start having annual mammogram earlier.

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