Detect early, save life

Rokiah Mahmud

Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring disease in women worldwide and the second most common cancer overall.

To raise awareness on the importance of early detection, treatment and palliative care for breast cancer, October has been earmarked as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month globally.

In Brunei, breast cancer is the number one killer among women and the number of new cases is increasing every year.

In 2019, over 100 new breast cancer patients were identified with most already at Stage 3 and Stage 4.

It can be cured when it is detected at an early stage, but most are unaware or afraid to take the necessary steps to spot the disease.

Last year, the Ministry of Health (MoH) implemented national screening programmes which included colorectal and breast cancers. For breast cancer, it involves mammogram for women between 40 and 69.

Dr Ravi Patnaik from the Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre (PJSC) said most patients in Brunei are diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers when compared to those in Western countries. He also said breast cancer patients in Brunei are much younger.

He shared that there are many male patients with breast cancer.

Dr Ravi Patnaik from the Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre (PJSC). PHOTO: MUIZ MATDANI

On patient acceptance, Dr Ravi said previously, many breast cancer patients found it hard to accept the diagnosis and were in denial as most believed that discussing the disease was considered a social taboo.

“However, with media exposure and outreach programmes including talks and roadshows, patients today are more comfortable and open in sharing ideas in finding treatment and cure.

“They also easily accept the diagnosis and believe that PJSC provides the best medical treatment,” he said.

He also said another possible reason as to why many patients were reserved in seeking treatment was due to the reluctance to undergo medical treatment abroad.

But since the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, through MoH, has provided facilities for medical diagnosis, treatment and medication in the country, “more patients are coming forward for treatment”, said Dr Ravi.

Executive Director of PJSC Dr Haji Mazrul Adimin bin Haji Besar, during an event recently, said, “Throughout October, PJSC is organising activities every Friday, including educational talks for the public by the Early Detection and Cancer Prevention Services (EDCPS) team, to discuss topics on breast cancer.

“Other activities include poster exhibitions on breast cancer, physical activities and pop-up vendors are also held.”

A breast cancer conference for health professionals and the launch of the breast cancer patient handbook will also be conducted.

“We have made a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go. We need the public’s active contribution and participation (to raise awareness and create a change in the public perception of breast cancer),” Dr Haji Mazrul Adimin said.

The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also called Pink October, is aimed at reducing premature deaths through early detection and screening. PJSC through the efforts of the EDCPS under the arm of its specialist centre, The Brunei Cancer Centre (TBCC), hopes to detect cancer at early stages to ensure nearly 100 per cent survival rate.

The centre also encourages the community to support the initiatives of assisting people in understanding the importance of being informed and to talk about cancer and its surrounding anxieties.

PJSC also hopes that the initiative will educate people on how one can seek help, access medical treatments and not to be misled by alternative treatments or ‘magical cures’ from misleading sources.