October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Every year, especially the month of October, the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF), a non-profit organisation in Singapore, holds talks and events, and shares materials that advocate early detection through regular screening as part of its mission to raise awareness on breast cancer.
How many of you know someone, a family member, friend or a relative, who has breast cancer or is a cancer survivor?
It is definitely hard to start a conversation about cancer and most people feel uncomfortable around the topic. However, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore where 1 in 14 will develop cancer before the age of 75.
The good news is, if detected early, there is a survival rate of 90%.
Misconceptions of breast cancer
The good people from BCF – a doctor and a cancer survivor – held a session with MindChamps staff recently. Advocating early regular self-checks and sharing some sobering statistics of breast cancer in Singapore is Gabriel Lum, a representative from BCF specialising in Digital and Community Engagement.
A survey commissioned by BCF found that 90% of Singaporeans regard regular breasts checks as important, but only 45% performed both breast self-examination and medical checks, and 27% has never checked themselves.
There’s also a general misconception that if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you’re not at rick – sadly breast cancer does not discriminate and all women are at risk. Statistics show that 90% of those who get breast cancer do not have a family history and 70% do not have any risk factors (more on that below).
What is BCF’s goal?
BCF’s strategic goals are aligned towards improving the journey for survivors and caregivers by lending support and empowerment through training and activities. Through their support group and Befriender programmes for survivors and caregivers, BCF has reached out to 4 million people to spread their breast cancer awareness message.
How do you fight breast cancer?
General surgeon and oncoplastic breast surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital, Dr Andrew Clayton Lee, spoke about early detection, the importance of doing self-checks regularly, the benefits of going for a yearly mammogram screening and living a healthy lifestyle. He also spoke candidly about his work with breast cancer survivors and highlighted that there is hope if breast cancer was detected at the early stage.
During his talk, he shared risk factors like age, family history, extended exposure to hormones and lifestyle choices. Being a woman and getting older are the main risk factors for breast cancer. If you have a family history, for example, mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer, this increases your risk factor.
He encouraged women to be physically active and to avoid or limit alcohol intake. Research also suggests that other factor such as smoking and being exposed to chemicals increases your risk. Mothers are also encouraged to breastfeed their children.
A breast cancer survivor story
For breast cancer survivor Amy Neary, her world turned upside down in 2014 when she received a call from her doctor that she had stage 3 breast cancer.
She had skipped her annual mammogram the year before. The wakeup call came at the urging of her friend who was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
Amy went through aggressive rounds of chemotherapy because of her late-stage cancer and underwent a full mastectomy on her right side.
In hindsight, had she gone for the mammogram screening the year before, her cancer would have been detected at an earlier stage and she wouldn’t have to go through the aggressive rounds of chemotherapy or lose her breast.
Amy credits BCF as a fundamental pillar with its great network of support and urges women to reduce their risk of breast cancer by doing the monthly self-examination, annual screenings and leading a healthy lifestyle.
“Molly Sings and Saves”
This year, BCF launched a new audio-visual breast cancer self-check campaign at the Pink Ribbon Walk 2019. Our amazing preschoolers from Raffles Town Club performed in the sing-along music video, sung to the tune of “Wheels on a Bus.”
The children sang phrases like “up and down” and “round and round” to illustrate the patterns of breast self-check. The song is a fun nursery rhyme to remind women to do their self-checks regularly.
This campaign kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
For more information on Breast Cancer Foundation and Mamobus programme. This year’s pin design under the Wear the pink ribbon campaign is inspired by two ribbons coming together, symbolising the power of love to overcome challenges like breast cancer.
Visit Pink Ribbon Singapore to get the pins at participating outlets.