When receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer, most people are scared, or may feel angry. These initial emotions then give way to anxiety and helplessness, along with mounting pressure from the new challenges that the disease has introduced to their lives.
According to a local study, more than half of the breast cancer patients keep working after being diagnosed. “Many patients strive for a balance between their illness, their families and their jobs. The disruption caused by breast cancer isn't just in its symptoms, but in the negative impact it has on a person's daily life,” says Dr. Ying Wai Leung, General Surgeon at Matilda International Hospital. However, with advances in medicine, the survival rate for breast cancer has improved remarkably these days. With an early diagnosis, the burden that the disease imposes can be reduced even further.
Treatment may change your plans, but early diagnosis minimises the impact
Doctors take into consideration the size and nature of the tumour, and the extent of its spread when discussing with patients for the treatment plan, including surgery and follow-up therapies. These treatments may temporarily disrupt patients’ daily life, upending routines to accommodate hospital visits and making it a struggle to take care of their families, their jobs and themselves. On top of that, the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also cause discomfort.
While surgery is necessary for all stages of breast cancer, early detection may reduce the need for other therapies, or for mastectomy (removal of the breast).
“Patients may not even notice any symptoms early on, when a tumour is tiny. Routine screening can detect tumours at early stages, allowing for earlier treatment, which is critical to prevent the cancer from spreading,” Dr. Ying explains.
A two-pronged approach increases accuracy of diagnosis
Ultrasound imaging and mammograms are both imaging tests that help detect breast cancer. Along with standard 2D mammograms, 3D mammograms are now available, which take multiple images from different angles to create a single 3D picture. This image provides a clearer view of the breast tissues and improves the accuracy of the assessment.
Data shows that using ultrasound imaging together with mammograms improves the odds of detecting breast cancer and reduces the number of repetitive checks required due to unclear results. Abnormal mammogram results should be followed up by a biopsy, and, if breast cancer is detected, a tailored treatment plan is then proposed by the doctor.
Multi-disciplinary companions along the path to recovery
With advanced and effective treatment, and multi-disciplinary doctors and nurses there to offer support, patients are in good hands as they head towards recovery. Every patient is unique, and doctors will make sure their treatment plan is appropriate to the patient’s personal needs and conditions. Healthcare professionals can help patients adapt to daily life in a wide range of ways, from dietary tips, wig selection and follow-up consultations, to helping arrange care for patients’ families and with financial arrangements. There are also support groups run by recovered cancer patients, who understand and support each other. “Breast cancer is not as scary as we think it is,” says Dr. Ying. “As healthcare professionals, we always try our best to minimise the impact of disease on our patients’ lives and help them resume a normal life as quickly as possible.”
Articles on this website are informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. They should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
Information provided by:
Dr. YING Wai Leung, Marcus