More options available for breast cancer patients

A National Healthcare Group radiographer (in white) preparing a woman for a mammogram. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
A National Healthcare Group radiographer (in white) preparing a woman for a mammogram. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Breast cancer patients can look forward to more treatment options apart from a mastectomy, or a complete removal of the breast.

Dr Veronique Tan, a consultant in the Division of Surgical Oncology at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), spoke about other options such as oncoplastic breast surgery (OBS).

OBS is a type of "breast conserving" surgery, and combines removing the tumour with plastic surgery techniques, such as reshaping of the breast.

This is generally a two-step process: first, the tumour is removed, along with a 1cm rim of surrounding normal breast tissue. Once surgery is complete, radiation therapy is done on the rest of the breast.

"By undertaking OBS, we are really tackling the question of how we can combine long-term survival and still achieve a good aesthetic outcome," said Dr Tan.

Not all patients can opt for it however, including those with scattered cancer tumours throughout the breast or whose cancer has recurred.

"Most patients have a misconception that having a mastectomy will remove the cancer completely. This is a misconception and not backed scientifically," said Dr Tan.

"We want them to know that breast cancer does not necessarily mean mastectomy, or that mastectomy is the only answer."