Never Too Early For Checks
Her World Singapore|October 2021
In Singapore, nearly six women are diagnosed with breast cancer each day. As high as the numbers are, there is evidence to show that early intervention can increase survival rates. Here’s how you can stop the disease in its tracks
Claire Turrell

Midnight feeds and broken sleep can leave any new mum feeling tired and lethargic. But new mum Siti Nur Aishah Bte Jamil,31, had this nagging thought that there had to be something more behind her constant tiredness and frequent headaches. Before long, she also discovered a persistent lump in her chest. She made an appointment at a polyclinic nearby, and two weeks later, she was given the news that she had Stage 4 breast cancer. Until then, Siti had thought this was a disease that only affected people in their 40s. “I told myself that I needed to move forward and embrace this journey. I knew that I did not want to be stuck feeling sad and hopeless, so I focused on being positive,” she says.

Fellow new mum Yvonne Chua, 33, also thought the lump in her chest was due to a blocked duct, but the lump began to grow. After a biopsy, Chua diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Now, three years later, after surgery and chemotherapy sessions, Chua sees that she can continue to live a normal life. “Life can be and will be better after cancer,” she says. “You may feel like you have hit rock bottom, but the only way to go after this phase is up. Once you have overcome this, you will emerge stronger,” adds Yvonne.

FIGHTING CHANCE

One of the biggest misconceptions about breast cancer, as Siti herself admits, is that it does not affect younger women. A report released in 2020 by Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) proves otherwise. It revealed that one in six breast cancer cases in Singapore are diagnosed in women below the age of 45, and it is one of the most common cancers among women under the age of 35 years.

Both Siti and Yvonne were proactive in identifying their symptoms and acting immediately – which is the key to beating the disease, says Dr Wong Chiung Ing, chair, BCF Medical Advisory Panel. She is also senior consultant, medical oncologist at Parkway Cancer Centre.

“The most common symptom of breast cancer is a breast lump that is hard and will not go away,” says Dr Wong. But there may be other indicative symptoms such as “nipple inversion or nipple discharge, which could be bloody or coloured”. The person may also experience skin changes such as a rash, redness, dimpling or puckering of the skin, she adds.

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