Breast Cancer affects
1 in 131 women in Singapore, with 6 new cases diagnosed every day. Not only is it the most common female cancer in Singapore, the trend in the number of new cases is rising relentlessly. Breast Cancer takes its toll on the lives of many patients, their families and caregivers, and imposes a heavy socioeconomic burden on society.
Women vs Cancer to raise public awareness of women’s cancers, as well as to raise funds to support patient care and research in women’s cancers. This year, in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), the focus is on Breast Cancer. Ms Laura Yuriani shares her cancer journey.
When Laura was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in March this year, she broke down in the clinic. But she quickly picked herself up and asked her doctor what she needed to do to live.
She had experienced mild stinging pains in her left breast, and felt a lump when she did a breast self-examination. She thought it could be a cyst, which had appeared at the same spot ten years ago. However, with a family history of breast cancer which took the lives of her mother and maternal aunt, she decided to seek medical advice.
A consult and ultrasound scan showed abnormalities in the left breast. Further tests through a mammogram and biopsy confirmed that the tumour was cancerous and she was advised to have surgery.
She sought a second opinion at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) the same month. Because of her young age and family history, she had genetic testing done to see if she had any gene abnormalities that put her higher risk of developing breast cancer. Although these tests did not show any gene mutations, Laura decided to proceed with the bilateral mastectomies (removal of both breasts) as this would reduce her risk of a second breast cancer. She also had breast reconstruction at the same time.
The surgery was performed during the Circuit Breaker period in late April. She is currently undergoing a six-month chemotherapy infusion treatment at National Cancer Centre Singapore, which will complete in December. Thereafter, she will commence her daily treatment with radiation therapy, which will last for three to four weeks.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura saw a doctor immediately when she felt something was wrong and went ahead with the recommended treatment. “I was afraid that if it was cancer, it would spread, so I didn’t want to delay seeing the doctor. I lost my mother when she passed away from breast cancer when I was eight years old, and I don’t want my young daughter to experience the same painful loss,” she explained.
Laura recovered well from surgery but the initial side effects from chemotherapy were hard to bear. “I felt muscle pain, dizziness, nauseous and lethargic. Fortunately, the side effects are more manageable now although I still feel tired after treatment,” she shared. During this time, it is the strong support of her family and friends that has kept her going. “My daughter has been a good distraction for me,” she beamed.
Laura has also been instrumental in helping another breast cancer patient move forward with surgery. “The nurse asked if I could speak to a patient who was anxious about going for surgery. I shared my experiences with her and gave her encouragement to proceed. We are still in touch to support each other,” Laura shared.
Laura keeps a positive outlook in her fight against breast cancer. “While our circumstances might not change, our perspectives can change and we can see these problems as life learning experiences,” she advised. “I would urge all women not to delay if you have any concerns about your breast health, just book an appointment with the doctor and get yourself checked. Early detection increases the chances for survival.”
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1Singapore Cancer Registry 50th Anniversary Monograph (1968 – 2017)
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