31 March 2023 | Kuala Lumpur
Did you know that breast cancer is the No.1 cancer among women in Malaysia? Read on to learn more about breast cancer, and what you can do to protect yourself against it.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates from the breast tissue, most commonly from the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (ductal carcinoma) or the glands that produce milk (lobular carcinoma).
While the causes of breast cancer are not specifically known, factors such as age, family history, certain genetic mutations, lifestyle, and hormonal factors may increase the risk of developing the disease. Hence, it is vital for all of us to keep a watchful eye on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to notice any changes in our body.
Unfortunately, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among Malaysian women with 1 out of 19 women at risk at some point in their lives. According to The Star, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for Malaysian women with 9 daily deaths that amount to 3,500 annually. Although this type of cancer commonly develops in women it can also affect men.
Some common symptoms of breast cancer include:
A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area may be one of the first signs of breast cancer. These lumps are often stiff, painless with uneven edges, and anchor themselves to supporting tissues, such as the chest wall. In other words, even if someone pokes it, it won't move.
Changes in the size or shape of the breast can also be a sign of breast cancer. This may include a change in the appearance of the breast, such as a dimpling of the skin, or a change in the way the breast feels to the touch.
Fluid discharge from the nipple, such as blood or a clear or milky discharge, can be a sign of breast cancer.
Breast cancer may also cause pain or tenderness in the breast or underarm area.
Do keep in mind that not all women with breast cancer will experience these symptoms. Some do not experience any symptoms at all, which reinforces the importance of regular screening.
Although breast cancer is a common type of cancer among Malaysian women, its causes are not completely known. However, there are several factors that have been identified as contributing factors to breast cancer.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and most cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50.
Women with a family history of breast cancer, especially immediate family, like mother or sister, are at a higher risk of developing this cancer.
Women who start menstruation at a young age, enter menopause late, or have never given birth may be at higher risk.
Certain lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in fat, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity, may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Certain genetic mutations, such as those in the Breast Cancer Gene 1 (BRCA1) and Breast Cancer Gene 2 1(BRCA2), may increase the risk of breast cancer.
It is important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that a woman will develop breast cancer. Besides, many women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors.
So, what can we do to prevent breast cancer? Fortunately, there are several steps that we can take to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Making lifestyle changes on top of scheduling regular screening tests are preventative measures to help you stay healthy and reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Making sure you are within a healthy BMI range is important as being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer, especially postmenopausal.
Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
Drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. It's best to limit alcohol or avoid it altogether.
If you have or plan on having children, opting to breastfeed can help lower the risk of breast cancer, especially if you breastfeed for a year or more.
(MHT) MHT is used as a short-term menopausal symptom reliever. The Women’s Health Initiative confirmed an increased risk of developing breast cancer with the use of long-term MHT containing estrogen plus progestin.
Mammograms is the best way to detect breast cancer. However, in Malaysia, only 1 in 10 women is estimated to attend regular mammograms.
These are tests that you can do to detect breast cancer early:
It’s an x-ray of the breast which can detect tiny lumps even before they can be felt, allowing for early detection. Mammogram is recommended to be done once a year for women aged 40 and above. Mammogram can cost between RM120 – RM380. Fortunately, the National Cancer Society Malaysia & Ministry of Women, Family & Communities Development does offer test subsidies for underprivileged women above 40 years old to do a memmogram test.
You can do a DIY breast self-check once a month.
Here is a list of places you can find breast screening services in KL.
Treatments in Malaysia varies depending on the stage of cancer and treatment types. Another big factor that contributes to the cost of breast cancer treatment would depend on where you’re getting treated.
Although treatment at a government facility is likely to be more affordable, one needs to account for the wait time given that approximately 10,000 new cases are being diagnosed each year in Malaysia. While private hospitals have a shorter waiting period, the cost of getting treated in private hospitals will to be higher.
We understand that private treatment is not within everyone’s reach. Therefore, it is best for individuals to have adequate health insurance or takaful coverage, that covers cancer treatment to help manage the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis. The treatment cost for breast cancer can add up to RM395,000, including mastectomy, breast implants and lump removal. A Malaysian woman shared her experience of treating advanced breast cancer, where it cost her RM6,000 per month for each cycle of targeted therapy drug cost, and paid more than RM5,500 for chemotherapy drugs that she has to go every three weeks. She also goes for positron emission tomography (PET) scans every few months that help detect new cancer growth, costing her another RM2,800 – RM3,000 per scan.
Besides the cost of medical care, there are other costs and considerations involved as well, such as loss of income, getting alternative treatments or therapies, cost of getting a caregiver or domestic helper which can amount to RM1,000 a month.
Breast cancer is a significant health issue in Malaysia, with a high incidence rate and significant costs associated with treatment. Regular screening and early detection are crucial for the best outcomes in treating breast cancer. Having adequate cancer insurance or cancer takaful coverage plans ensures that you are financially protected when cancer strikes.
At FWD Takaful, we offer a FWD Care Direct, a takaful cancer protection, from as low as RM10.83/month. The plan provides a lump sum 100% payout of up to RM250,000 upon diagnosis of cancer including stage 0 (carcinoma in situ). No medical examination is required upon signing up.
By paying attention to the correct warning symptoms of breast cancer and having financial peace of mind, you will be better equipped if the time ever comes. Find out more about how FWD Cancer Takaful could help you and get a cancer takaful quote in seconds here.