17-year-old girl youngest on record at SGH

Breast cancer – commonest form of death among women globally – can also affect teenagers

KUCHING: Women must conduct self breast examination on a regular basis and take the free mammogram screening provided by the government seriously as breast cancer can also hit young girls with seemingly no risk factors.

For instance, the youngest breast cancer pat ient that Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) has encountered to date is only 17 years old.

SGH general surgeon Dr Rokayah Julaihi told The Borneo Post recently that the need to reinforce the ‘Early Detection Save Life’ call with respect to breast cancer was now greater than ever.

Based on the surgical-based audit from July 2008 till July 2011 recorded by SGH, about 420 patients who sought treatment at the surgical outpatient clinic were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The commonest age range was between 40 and 60 years, and the patients were mostly from the Chinese community, followed by the Malays, the Dayaks and others.

Dr Rokayah pointed out that breast cancer was the commonest form of death among females worldwide.

In a 2010 medical literature, it was projected that about one in eight women in the United States would develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

“Generally, the people here only seek medical attention when their breast lumps are between one and three months old, meaning the disease is already at stage two.

“That is why we always reinforce on this motto, Early Detection Save Life, for breast cancer. We always reinforce the need for regular monthly self breast examination,” she stressed.

Dr Rokayah added that the government had also implemented a free breast screening programme in which about RM2.4 million were allocated in Budget 2013.

“The public should make use of this opportunity while not forgetting to conduct regular self breast examination.”

Factors for breast cancer are multi-factorial, including increasing age and family history

She said the risk factors for breast cancer are multi-factorial, and it includes increasing age; strong family history (especially first degree relative); early menarche (aged 12 and younger); late menopause (aged 55 and older); nulliparity (no children) at the age of 40 years; first full term pregnancy at the age of 35 or more; prolonged intake of hormone replacement therapy (more than five years) and obesity in post menopausal women.

To promote greater awareness about the dangers of breast cancer, especially the need to detect breast cancer at a very early stage, a new organisation Persatuan Pink Ribbon Group had been set up to provide counselling to patients and to provide continuing care to patients physically and emotionally.

This organisation collaborates with medical personnel from both government and private hospitals that are directly involved in the management of breast cancer patients.

“In the state, we also have one active NGO called Sarawak Breast Cancer Support Group (SBCSG) that is involved in providing counselling and motivational programmes for the survivors.

“We hope in the future there will be more organisations formed to enhance breast cancer awareness.”

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