Health screening urged for women

MISTAKEN BELIEFS::Some women do not have checks because they think menopause means they are not susceptible, the Health Promotion Administration said

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - Page 3

One in every 180 Taiwanese women screened last year was found to have breast cancer, and one out of every 76 checked was detected with either precancerous cervical lesions or cervical cancer, the Health Promotion Administration said yesterday, two days ahead of Women’s Day, urging women to have regular check-ups.

Nearly 10,000 Taiwanese women are found with precancerous lesions of the breast or cervix every year. While the incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer are declining, the incidence of breast cancer surged in the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, from 40.6 to 63.2 in every 10,000 women, the agency’s Cancer Control and Prevention Division chief Wu Chien-yuan (吳建遠) said.

“The death rate from breast cancer has increased only by a small percentage during the same period, indicating the effectiveness mammography promotion has had,” she added.

“Early detection is the key to high survival rates,” Wu said. “Women with breast cancer or cervical cancer at stage 0 have a 97 percent five-year survival rate, with a rate of about 90 percent for stage one and two breast cancer, and 84 percent and 62 percent respectively for cervical malignancy.”

“The yearly pap smear for women aged 30 and above is subsidized by the agency, which also financially supported the mammogram test for women aged from 45 to 69,” she said.

Chang King-jen (張金堅), president of the Taiwan Breast Cancer Foundation and superintendent of Cheng Ching Hospital in Taichung, said that the risk factors for breast cancer include hormone-related early menstruation and late menopause, giving birth to the first child after the age of 35, or never giving birth.

“A family history of breast cancer is also associated with higher risk,” he said.

Lifestyle risk factors include a lack of physical activity, poor diet high in saturated fat and alcohol and tobacco consumption, he added.

Risk factors for cervical cancer are human papilloma virus infection, early engagement in sexual activity, first full-term pregnancy at a young age and smoking, he said.

Wu said that a lot of women failed to undertake the tests out of mistaken beliefs, such as that they are healthy enough to bypass the routine check-ups or that menopause meant they were not susceptible to those cancers.

“Some said that mammograms hurt. However, five seconds of discomfort could ensure the health of your breasts,” she said.