Spectrum of Breast Cancer in Malaysian Women: Overview
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Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Malaysian women. Nonetheless, in Malaysia there is a marked geographical difference in the incidence of breast cancer with advanced stage of presentation. The breast clinic in Kuala Lumpur Hospital diagnosed approximately 150 to 200 new cases of breast cancer a year. This number, however, represents only 12.0% to 15.0% of all breast disease seen annually in Kuala Lumpur Hospital. Between 1998 and 2001, of a total of 774 cases of newly diagnosed breast cancer in Kuala Lumpur Hospital, only 5.0% (40/774) were impalpable breast cancers. The peak age group for the three major ethnic distributions (Malay, Chinese, and Indian) ranged from 40 to 49 years. The mean tumor size at presentation was 5.4 cm (range: 1–20 cm), and the advanced stage of breast cancer is observed to be highest among the Malay ethnic group. Although it appears that the incidence of breast cancer in Malaysia is lower than in the developed countries, the difference may be attributable to the difficulty in getting accurate statistics and to underreporting of cases. Nonetheless, from the available data, it is clear that breast cancer continues to be the most common cancer among Malaysian women. The strongly negative social-cultural perception of the disease, made worse by the geographical isolation of many rural areas, accounts for the delayed diagnosis and the often advanced stage of disease at presentation. A prospective population-based study is called for to verify the demographic patterns of breast cancer, particular in Malaysia and other developing countries. The findings of such a study may have implications for future breast screening programs and for facilitating the understanding of differing risks of breast cancer among women around the world.
KeywordsBreast Cancer Breast Disease Breast Clinic Breast Screening Program Tertiary Health Care
We thank the Director General of Health, Malaysia for kindly giving us permission to publish this article.
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