Jakarta. Breast cancer is currently the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. According to Globocan cancer surveillance database managed by the International Association of Cancer Registries, or IARC, there are approximately 1.6 million new cases recorded each year. And each year, about 520,000 women succumb to the disease.
In Indonesia, 48,998 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. For 19,750 of them it was lethal. Globocan predicts the numbers will increase and estimates that in 2020 there will be 58,779 new cases recorded and 23,836 women will die. In 2030, the numbers will rise to 74,289 and 31,626 respectively.
"The sad thing is that many [breast cancer] patients get treated at a very late stage, because of common misconceptions surrounding the disease," Dr. Aries Hamzah of the directorate for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases at the Ministry of Health said during a discussion on breast cancer held by Roche Indonesia in Jakarta on Wednesday (15/03).
"The hoaxes [on breast cancer] can be quite misleading and life-threatening," said Prof. Dr. dr. Arry Haryanto, representative of the Association of Indonesian Internists, Hematologists and Oncologists (Perhompedin).
"It's high time people learn about breast cancer," said Dr. Bob Andinata, oncologist at Dharmais Hospital.
During the discussion, medical experts dispelled some of the myths regarding the disease.
You Don't Have to Worry About Cancer if No One in Your Family Has It
"It's possible for everyone to get cancer. Our body consists of trillions of cells. If only one of them grows uncontrollably and doesn't die, we'll have cancer," Arry said.
However, he added, if your mother or siblings have been diagnosed with breast cancer, it might increase your risk factor.
You Don't Need to Worry About Breast Cancer if You're Young
"In the old days, breast cancer was usually found among women above 50. But today, it is quite common among women aged 30-50," Bob said.
Therefore, women are advised to regularly check their breasts as soon as they start menstruating.
"When breast cancer is detected at an early stage, it is easier to treat and patients usually have a 100-percent chance to recover," Bob said.
When You Find a Lump in Your Breast, It's Definitely Cancer
"Painful lumps in breasts are usually harmless cysts due to hormonal changes. Only 20 percent of them are possibly cancer," Bob said.
So, when you are checking your own breasts and find a lump in it, do not panic. Just see a doctor and get a USG or mammography exam.
If Doctor Suggests a Biopsy, Don't Do It, Biopsies Can Cause the Spread of Cancer Cells
"This is a huge misconception, very common in Indonesia. Biopsies are needed to properly diagnose the lumps," Bob said.
However, he added, many patients flee after getting their biopsy results. These patients would usually return to the doctor when their condition is already bad and cancer has spread to other parts of their bodies.
"They get into a denial state and refuse any further medical treatments. They opt for alternative medicine instead. Thus, they perpetuate the myth that biopsies make the cancer worse," he said.
Breast Cancer Patients Should Abstain From Meat
"This is life-threatening. One of my patients died because of it. Cancer releases toxins that destroy your muscles and weaken your immunity. You need proteins and fats found in meat to fight [the disease]," said Arry.
Breast Cancer Patients Will Lose Their Breasts
According to Bob, total masectomy is performed only on patients at stage two or three. At stage four, doctors usually suggest chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. At this stage — surgery is only performed if cancer cells bleed or produce foul odor.
"If cancer is detected at an early stage, doctors will only perform a lumpectomy to remove the ill cells," he said.
If patients want it, they can request breast reconstruction after the surgery.
"Doctors usually use the fat tissues and muscles from [the patient's] stomach or buttocks to reconstruct the breasts. Don't worry about losing your breasts. Doctors have all the necessary knowledge and technology to reconstruct them. Above all, you should really worry about your life, because if you lose it, nothing can be done anymore."