Mon, Jun 08, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Shyness can kill by keeping women from medical help

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

A 42-year-old woman recently died of breast cancer after shyness kept her from seeking medical help until her cancer was very advanced.

Kaohsiung Municipal Ta-tung Hospital superintendent Hou Ming-feng (侯明鋒) said the woman tried to hide her illness from her husband when they had intercourse by keeping a shirt on, turning off the room lights and wearing perfume to cover up for the odor emitted by her tumor.

“The patient was too shy and conservative to consult a doctor about her condition. She waited until the tumor on her left breast had burst through the skin and had become too smelly to go to a hospital,” Hou said.

“By then her cancer was stage three and not even chemotherapy helped slow the disease,” Hou said, adding that the woman died a little more than a year after first consulting a doctor about her condition.

Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare show that breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Taiwan, with an average of 12,000 cases diagnosed each year.

Hou said the extremely shy woman was not the only one attending his outpatient clinic who had avoided seeking medical attention because they were terrified of showing their breasts to a stranger, including many who were married, between the ages of 40 and 50 and well-educated.

“Such cases are not that uncommon. About a dozen similar women seek my outpatient services each year, which works out to about one to two patients a month,” Hou said.

Few survived for a year after first seeking help, he said.

If caught early, breast cancer has a relatively high five-year survival rate of more than 90 percent, Health Promotion Administration Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said.

“In addition to adopting a healthy lifestyle, women in the 45 to 69 age group and those aged between 40 and 44 with a family history of breast cancer should undergo regular mammograms,” Chiou said.

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