Breast cancer info made simple for patients

Telemarketer Elsie Heng, who had a bout with breast cancer in 2011, with senior nurse clinician Patmavathy Chellaiyya, who looked after her when she was warded.
Telemarketer Elsie Heng, who had a bout with breast cancer in 2011, with senior nurse clinician Patmavathy Chellaiyya, who looked after her when she was warded.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

A NEW comic booklet aimed at informing breast cancer patients about treatment options and coping strategies was released yesterday by Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Breast Clinic on its fifth anniversary.

Titled Life After Diagnosis, the 21-page booklet follows a fictional patient through her diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

It discusses surgical and treatment options as well as diet and exercise. It also provides information on breast reconstruction surgery and advice on financial help and coping strategies.

Dr Juliana Chen, director of the Breast Clinic, said the booklet would help doctors communicate with less-educated patients.

The comic format was not meant to "trivialise" breast cancer, but would help patients face their diagnosis with "cheer and positivity", she added.

The booklets' illustrations and Chinese translation were done by the clinic's doctors, surgeons and other staff. Two thousand copies have been printed in English and 2,000 more in Chinese.

Dr Chen told The Straits Times many patients sought alternatives such as traditional Chinese medicine or avoided treatment altogether out of fear. "With education comes empowerment so that we can remove their fears."

Ms Elsie Heng, 52, a telemarketer, spoke at the event about her bout with breast cancer in 2011. She found out about her condition by chance during a polyclinic visit for pain in her arm.

Ms Heng said the hardest part of her condition was not being able to support her son in the year of his Primary School Leaving Examination. She commended hospital staff, praising senior nurse clinician Patmavathy Chellaiyya for always going the extra mile.

Also present was Terena Hung, 16, who presented the Breast Clinic with a wig made of real hair for the clinic's hair donation drive.

Terena started a drive in CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) that saw 50 schoolmates each donating 25cm of hair. About 70 more donors joined in and 40 wigs were made for breast cancer patients.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor, the guest of honour, commended the girls, joking that her own daughters treasured their long tresses.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, making up 29.2 per cent of cancers in women from 2010 to last year, said a report last month by the Singapore Cancer Registry.

ariellim@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'Breast cancer info made simple for patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe