Only about one in five women considered to have a high risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer undergoes regular screening for the disease in Taiwan, a figure that is much lower than in developed countries in the West, the Department of Health said yesterday.
About half-a-million Taiwanese women in the 45-to-69 age bracket, considered the high-risk group, underwent breast cancer screening last year, with 1,615 testing positive for the disease, the department’s Bureau of Health Promotion said.
From January to October last year, 123,000 women in this age bracket had a mammogram. Among them, 419 cases of breast cancer were discovered, of which more than half were at stage zero or one, which meant that the cancer was detected at a relatively early stage.
“Women in the high-risk group should get a mammogram once every two years,” bureau deputy director Kung Hsien-lan (孔憲蘭) said.
Kung said Taiwanese are accustomed to visiting hospitals only when they feel sick, but regular checkups even when they feel healthy are important for early detection and treatment.
“The earlier [cancer] is detected, the earlier treatments can start and the higher the rate of success,” she said, adding that surgery during the early stages of the disease would not lead to a full mastectomy.
Compared with developed countries in the West, where more than half of the women who discover that they have breast cancer are only at stage zero or one, in Taiwan, that figure is about 38 percent, meaning many realize they have breast cancer when it is too late, she said.
Kung said fat-rich diets and high caloric intake have raised the cancer-risk profile of Taiwanese women.
Bureau statistics showed that 7,500 new cases of breast cancer are detected in Taiwan annually. The fatal illness is the fourth cause of death for women in Taiwan.
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