| Rokiah Mahmud |
BASED on medical reports, Brunei Darussalam has experienced an increase in the number of male patients being diagnosed with breast cancer, in addition to the presence of myths that are preventing both men and some women from seeking medical advice and treatment as a result of denial of the illness.
Some of these myths include a lack of breast cancer in a family’s history, having small breasts and individuals who believe that only the presence of lumps can indicate the presence of breast cancer, a medical officer at the Health Promotion Centre, Dr Hajah Norol-Ehsan binti Haji Abdul Hamid, said during an outreach programme on breast cancer awareness for 30 female officials and staff at the Ministry of Development yesterday.
She said that most of these myths and misconceptions about breast cancer are not true. No matter how big or small the size of a woman’s breast, it is not a leading factor to determine whether a person suffers from the illness. What is most important is that women in the country need to become more educated and make an effort to attain more information and knowledge on how to prevent breast cancer.
“In Brunei Darussalam, breast cancer is the most common illness among women and the total number of cases and fatalities due to this deadly illness increases every year.
“Among the risk factors leading to breast cancer are ageing, family history of having breast cancer, having early menstruation, menopause at a later age, having no children or having the first child after the age of 30, not breastfeeding their child, obesity, high fat diets, not practising a healthy lifestyle by being a smoker or passive smoker as well as being exposed to radiotherapy on the chest (for treatment of previous breast cancer or other types of cancer on the chest),” she explained.
Most women, she continued, believe that breast cancer does not occur at a young age, however, in Brunei Darussalam the youngest case that was recorded involved a patient as young as 18 years-old, while 20 per cent of cases occur among women during child-bearing age.
She highlighted that for those who do not have a family history of breast cancer, there do exist 70 per cent of cases that have been recorded as a result of unknown causes, while 90 per cent of breast cancer cases have no relation to a family’s medical history, although the risk factor might increase by double or triple should there be breast cancer in a family’s history.
“Breast cancer does not necessarily occur in the form of lump sometimes, but there are other kinds of changes that might lead to breast cancer such as swelling, skin irritation, dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction, redness, scaliness, thickening of the nipple or breast skin or discharge other than breast milk.
“In order to prevent breast cancer from being vigorously affected, early detection is vital,” she stressed.
Aside from conducting breast self examinations (BSE), Dr Hjh Norol also advised the attendees to seek clinical breast-examinations, so that they will receive thorough medical reports through routine mammograms.
The outreach programme then continued with a second presentation facilitated by a Breast Care Nurse from The Brunei Cancer Centre, Dayang Khairunnisa Haji Rambi, who discussed the ‘Importance of Breast Self-Examination (BSE) and its techniques.
“BSE is a simple procedure where a woman examines their own breast to look for any changes or suspicious lumps or swelling. It is vital as it can familiarise women with their usual appearance and feel of their own breast so that they can better notice any changes that might occur,” she said.
She explained that for women who are still in their menstrual period are advised to undergo BSEs every month around seven to 10 days after having their menstruation. For post menopausal women, all they need to do is to pick a day of the month which is easy to remember.
“When we do a BSE what we need to look for are lumps, dimpling, pulled in nipple, drippings or discharge of unknown liquid, redness or rashes, or any skin changes,” she explained.
Later on, a number of breast care nurses demonstrated how to perform a BSE properly. The Breast Cancer Awareness Outreach programme is jointly organised by the Health Promotion Centre and The Brunei Cancer Centre of the Ministry of Health. Among the objectives of the programme was to relay sound information and knowledge of the illness for staff of all ministries.