Breast cancer on the rise in Brunei

National 3 minutes, 57 seconds


BRUNEI saw a total of 801 women diagnosed with breast cancer over the past decade, revealed the minister of health yesterday.

Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi, in his message to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, said the number of new cases were on the rise each year as more women have come forward to seek medical advice and proper diagnosis.

Most breast cancer cases reported in the sultanate involved women aged 50 and above, but he said it can also affect young women as well as men.

He stressed the need for early detection of breast cancer as many women presented to clinics or hospitals in Brunei were found to be at a very advanced stage of the disease.

However, some women who were diagnosed early also chose not to follow their treatment as prescribed.

When cancer spreads, the minister explained that treatment becomes more complex and survival rate is much lower.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women worldwide and is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. About one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

“Cancer, diagnosed at an early stage – before it grows bigger or spreads – is more likely to be treated successfully,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain.

Emphasising that early detection can decrease risk of breast cancer fatality, he strongly encouraged all women to learn and practice the breast self-examination regularly as it will help them to be more aware of the regular consistency or texture of their breasts.

He urged women to seek prompt medical attention at clinics for any unusual changes. If necessary, he said they may be referred to the breast clinic in hospitals for further tests and check-ups.

“While the exact causes of breast cancer remain unclear, the risk for the cancer gets higher with age and this is a factor which we cannot change. You are also at risk of the cancer if you are obese,” said the minister.

He added other risk factors were practising an unhealthy lifestyle, taking combined hormone replacement therapy or exposure to radiation and environmental pollution.

For women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, he said they should be more vigilant with their breast self-examinations especially at a young age.

The minister said that breastfeeding can also have a slight protective effect against breast cancer.

In the message, he explained that fighting breast cancer or any other cancer is not solely dependent on the cancer treatment.

“It is also about our personal choices, our own lifestyles and how we live. If you do not smoke, eat healthily, watch your weight, exercise regularly, it does not mean you will not get sick, but it will help keep your risk (of) breast cancer to a minimum,” he said.

YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain reiterated that people can make these choices, which will help them to build a healthier life.

Meanwhile, he vowed the Ministry of Health will continue to engage with patients and the wider public to prevent and control cancer in the sultanate in line with their three strategic priorities including “to inculcate that health is everyone’s business”.

“In Brunei Darussalam, thankfully the medical and social supports for women with breast cancer are readily available,” he said.

As the facilities for the detection and treatment of breast cancer are already in place and accessible, he said it enables women to see health professionals to learn more about the disease and seek medical advice.

He said the Brunei Breast Cancer Support Group members and breast care nurses also play an important role in supporting patients and families.

Reaffirming the country’s commitment in breast cancer awareness to reduce the burden of breast cancer, the minister called on individuals, groups and organisations to join Bandarku Ceria’s breast cancer awareness activities in the capital on October 30.

He said they are also welcome to wear pink to show support for this year’s theme of “Wear It Pink” to promote awareness of breast cancer prevention efforts.

“There is no doubt that the most effective way to deal with cancer is to have it treated in a timely manner. Early detection and treatment can save lives, but let us make the lives of those around us better and share the breast cancer awareness,” he said.

YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain believed “we are all affected by this cancer either through our family members, friends, colleagues or somebody we know”.

“We are touched by the pain from the disease. We honour those who have gone through difficult journeys and battles against the disease. And, we carry positive hope in the face of adversity to live on another day,” he said.

The Brunei Times