The annual meeting of the Breast Cancer Society of Taiwan (BCST) brought together more than 200 local and foreign doctors in Taipei yesterday to discuss treatment methods for breast cancer in women under the age of 35.
Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s breast cancer database showed that in 1990, patients with tumors bigger than 5cm represented 10 percent of breast cancer patients in Taiwan.
By last year, that number had gone down to 5 percent, which shows that some people were still unaware of the importance of breast cancer screening.
“Because large tumors are very difficult to deal with, the goal of the conference is to discuss how to perform neo-adjuvant chemotherapy to make tumors small enough for surgery,” BCST president Chen Shin-cheh (陳訓徹) said.
Major hospitals in Taiwan say that 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancer patients are undergoing neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, a form of treatment that is administered prior to surgery.
More than 85 percent of these patients had their tumors successfully reduced to half the original size, while 20 percent of patients saw cancer tissue removed completely.
“As knowledge increases, we may be able to identify specific molecular markers to guide treatment selection and derive more effective treatment methods,” said Lu Yen-shen (盧彥伸), adjunct associate professor at the Department of Internal medicine at National Taiwan University College of Medicine.
Chen Chii-ming (陳啟明), chief of the Department of Surgery at the Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center, said that in 2005, there were 6,593 reported cases of breast cancer in Taiwan, with 5 percent occurring in young women.
“[Young patients] are plagued by uncertainty about whether the cancer will recur, as they are at the prime of their lives,” he said.
“Breast cancer patients under the age of 35 have lower overall survival rates and higher recurrence than older patients,” Chen Shin-cheh said.
Liu Tse-jia (劉自嘉), chairman of Municipal Wan Fang Hospital’s Department of Surgery, said that as Asian women generally have smaller breasts, they tend to experience greater pain when undergoing a mammogram.
“Many of my patients say they refuse to come back because [the mammogram] was too painful,” he said.