Breast Cancer in Asia

201010headline.jpgBreast cancer is now among the most common cancer in many Asian countries. Although the incidence rates are low, they are now increasing at a more rapid rate than in western countries, due to changes in the lifestyle and diet. There are many differences between breast cancer in Asia compared with western countries. The mean age at onset is younger than in the west, and unlike the west, the age-specific incidence decreases after the age of 50 years. Because there is no population-based breast cancer screening program in the majority of Asian countries, the majority of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage. There is a higher proportion of hormone receptor-negative patients which means these women can be treated with chemotherapy but not hormone therapy, and some evidence that the cancers in Asia are of a higher grade. Most Asian countries with high incidences of breast cancer are low- and middle-income countries, where access to effective care is limited. Because of late detection and inadequate access to care, the survival rate of women with breast cancer in Asia is lower than in western countries. Improving breast health in most of the Asian countries remains a challenge that may be overcome with collaboration from multiple sectors, both public and private.

Who is getting breast cancer?

In Asia, breast cancer occurs most often among women age 50and younger. But having a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer could double a woman’s risk. A woman who has already had breast cancer is also at increased risk of developing some other types of cancer. Women who have had certain kinds of benign breast tumors are also at higher risk of later developing breast cancer.Women with unhealthy lifestyles increase their risk of breast cancer. Consumption of more than one alcoholic beverage per day increases the risk of breast cancer. Overweight and obese women also face an increased risk, especially if the weight was gained during adulthood and/or if the excess fat is located at the waistline. An overall lack of exercise adds to an unhealthy lifestyle and increased risk of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Prevention:

The above-mentioned risk factors of breast cancer reminds us that every woman should keep in mind these tips to better protect themselves from this fatal disease:

• Know your family history of breast cancer. Talk to your doctor to see if you or your loved ones should consider genetic counseling.
• Get moving! Studies have conclusively shown that exercise can help cut down your breast cancer risk and even help breast cancer survivors live longer. So get out there and dance, run, bike, walk, just break a sweat!
• If you’re a smoker, quit! Otherwise avoid second hand smoke. Tobacco exposure may be linked to increased risk for breast cancer.
• Stay informed. Cancer research breakthroughs are constantly introducing new findings. Be aware of the most up-to-date prevention information by visiting forums such as

Breast Cancer Detection

The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the better the chance of recovery. Women world wide can take proactive steps to knowing their bodies, family history, and risk level, in order to prevent and detect cancer early.

Screening and Early Detection Chart

Screening Type



Risk level

Self breast exam

Self examination of the breasts to feel for any lumps or irregularities (see instruction panel).

Monthly, starting after puberty


Clinical breast exam

Healthcare provider physically examines the breasts to feel for any lumps or irregularities.



Once or twice a year beginning at age 25*



An x-ray image of the breast that can reveal irregularities and help to detect cancer early when it is most treatable.

Annually, starting at age 40*.


Annually, starting at age 30


Predictive Genetic Testing

Usually several blood samples are taken for laboratory tests, to identify changes in DNA

At time determined by individual’s physician*



Uses radio waves and a magnet to create detailed images of the inside of the body.

Annually, starting at age 30*


*These are suggested screening schedules for high risk individuals regardless of the risk factors. Please consult your physician for a specific screening schedule tailored to your risk profile.

Self Breast Awareness and Examination

Women twenty years of age and older should be proactive about detecting breast cancer. Self breast awareness and examinations are easy and free! Follow the instructions below to use your senses to examine your breasts:

Feel- Be familiar with what your breasts normally feel like, such as tenderness levels and firmness.

Touch– After the age of 20, females should perform monthly self breast exams.

Lie down on your back, place a pillow under one shoulder, and place the pillowed arm behind your head.

Place the pads of the three middle fingers of the opposite hand on the breast and rub in small circles. Start from the bottom far side of the breast.

Apply enough pressure to feel the breast tissue in each spot.

Maintain contact with the breast while moving up and down, working your way across your entire breast, making sure to feel all of the tissue.

Look- Stand in front of a mirror with your arms at your side. Practice holding your arms over your head, then at your side, then placing your hands on your hips, and finally bending forward from the hips (It’s okay to feel as though you are dancing, we encourage you to make this a fun exercise!).

If you notice any changes, swelling, discoloration, or abnormalities contact your doctor for a clinical examination.


If, unfortunately, you or someone you know is diagnosed with breast cancer, see an oncologist who has been trained to treat breast cancer. The currently available treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy. The doctor will suggest the best treatment option depending on your stage at diagnosis.