Un­der­stand­ing breast can­cer

Breast can­cer sur­vival rates are ris­ing as screen­ing and treat­ment im­prove, but it is still the most com­mon can­cer in women.

The Star Malaysia - - Health -

ALL women are at risk of get­ting breast can­cer, but there are a few risk fac­tors that make it more likely, specif­i­cally, age and ge­netic fac­tors.

For ex­am­ple. the chances of de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease in­creases the older you get.

Ge­netic fac­tors are an­other con­sid­er­a­tion. A fam­ily history of breast or ovar­ian can­cer puts a woman at greater risk.

The same ap­plies if a woman started men­stru­at­ing early or if she en­ters menopause late.

Other risk fac­tors in­clude:

● Hav­ing a first child af­ter the age of 30

● Women who have never had chil­dren

● Women on hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy

● Weight gain af­ter menopause

● Lead­ing a seden­tary life­style

The im­por­tance of early de­tec­tion

It’s im­por­tant to note that the ab­sence of any risk fac­tors does not safe­guard a woman from breast can­cer.

Reg­u­lar screen­ing and self breast-ex­am­i­na­tion are im­por­tant and rec­om­mended for the early de­tec­tion of breast can­cer, as the ini­tial stages of the dis­ease may not have any symp­toms.

It is rec­om­mended that a woman have reg­u­lar mam­mo­grams cou­pled with monthly breast self-ex­am­i­na­tion.

Mam­mo­grams are x-rays of the breast that de­tect small lumps.

The av­er­age size of lumps de­tected via a rou­tine mam­mo­gram is one cen­time­tre.

In com­par­i­son, the av­er­age size of a lump found by reg­u­larly prac­tis­ing breast self ex­am­i­na­tion is two cen­time­tres.

The smaller the tu­mour, the bet­ter the chances of a cure.

In ad­di­tion, tu­mours that are de­tected very early might only re­quire ra­di­a­tion and mi­nor surgery as treat­ment.

Doc­tors rec­om­mend that women aged over 40 un­dergo a mam­mo­gram every year, while those aged above 50 should go for a screen­ing every two years.

If your mam­mo­gram re­sults are ab­nor­mal and you are asked to go for fur­ther tests, don’t panic.

Nine out of every 10 women who need fur­ther tests will have nor­mal re­sults.

So, hav­ing to go for ad­di­tional tests does not nec­es­sar­ily mean you have can­cer.

Your doc­tor will rec­om­mend suit­able tests for you, such as a re­peat mam­mo­gram where dif­fer­ent views of the breasts are taken or an ul­tra­sound where sound waves are used to ex­am­ine the breast tis­sue.

Treat­ment of breast can­cer

If breast can­cer is con­firmed af­ter fur­ther tests, treat­ment op­tions will de­pend on the fol­low­ing:

● The stage of the can­cer

● Types of can­cer cells

● The age and gen­eral health of the in­di­vid­ual

The op­tions for breast can­cer treat­ment in­clude surgery, ra­di­a­tion ther­apy, chemo­ther­apy, hor­mone ther­apy and tar­geted ther­apy.

Although bet­ter surgery and im­proved drugs have en­hanced sur­vival rates for breast can­cer, there are a few life­style changes that you can make to re­duce your chances of get­ting the dis­ease:

● Stop smoking

● Drink less alcohol

● Main­tain a healthy weight through phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity

● Eat less red meat and other an­i­mal fats, as well as pro­cessed food

● Avoid hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy if pos­si­ble

● Have chil­dren early.

En­sure you are ad­e­quately cov­ered

It goes with­out say­ing that the fight against can­cer can be a lengthy process, and one that is phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally drain­ing.

Yet, be­yond the mind and body, the bat­tle against can­cer is also a costly af­fair. Hospi­tal­i­sa­tion and sur­gi­cal costs can wipe out sav­ings.

In ad­di­tion, many pa­tients tend to over­look other costs, such as reg­u­lar di­ag­nos­tic tests, coun­selling and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

As the treat­ment process can be lengthy, ex­penses tend to snow­ball over time.

It is im­por­tant for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies to plan and man­age their fi­nances and re­sources so that treat­ment is sus­tain­able.

Do en­sure that you have ad­e­quate in­sur­ance that not only cov­ers surgery and hospi­tal­i­sa­tion costs, but also crit­i­cal care treat­ment (this cov­ers di­ag­nos­tics, treat­ment and other as­pects that a hospi­tal­i­sa­tion pol­icy does not) and loss of in­come.

There are also early stage crit­i­cal ill­ness plans of­fer­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port from the early stages of can­cer.

Re­mem­ber that it is im­por­tant to buy in­sur­ance at a young age, when you are still healthy – as in­di­vid­u­als with ex­ist­ing health con­di­tions are ex­cluded from cov­er­age.

Plan­ning your fi­nances and in­sur­ance is im­por­tant and best started early so that your fo­cus can be on re­cov­ery rather than wor­ry­ing about the large bills that usu­ally fol­low se­ri­ous ill­ness.

It will also spare your loved ones the emo­tional strain.

This ar­ti­cle is brought to you by Great East­ern. Star Health Expo 2018 with the theme “Get Fit. Live Great!” is to in­spire Malaysians to lead a healthy life­style and adopt a holis­tic ap­proach that in­cludes phys­i­cal and men­tal health, emo­tional well-be­ing and fi­nan­cial well­ness. Star Health Expo 2018 is or­gan­ised by I. Star Events Sdn Bhd, a sub­sidiary of Star Me­dia Group Ber­had with Great East­ern Life as ex­clu­sive event part­ner. It will be held in Halls 1 to 3 of the Mid Val­ley Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre, Kuala Lumpur, from July 13 to 15. It is open from 10am to 7pm and ad­mis­sion is free. For en­quiries, call 03-79671388 (ext 1541/1097) or visit www.face­book.com/starhealthexpo.


It’s im­por­tant to note that the ab­sence of any risk fac­tors does not safe­guard a woman from breast can­cer.


Doc­tors rec­om­mend that women aged over 40 should get a mam­mo­gram every year while those aged above 50 should go for a screen­ing every two years. —

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