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Breast Cancer Alarm Bells

A survey on public awareness on breast cancer has thrown up disturbing figures highlighting a lack of awareness of the disease.

Only 48 percent of Chinese women have a very basic understanding of the risk factors for breast cancer and 18.1 percent seldom or never go to hospital for breast scans, according to the survey, released in Shanghai yesterday.

Along with the survey, the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association and AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Co issued a breast-cancer guidance book to promote national knowledge of prevention and control. The survey covered 752 ordinary women and breast-cancer patients in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Nanjing in February and March.

It found that most people have little understanding of breast cancer and less than 30 percent perform regular self-examinations, an important method for women to detect growths early. About 58 percent of the 130 surveyed cancer patients who received surgery a year ago found the cancer through self-examination, doctors said.

There are 150,000 women detected with breast cancer in China every year and 60 percent of new patients are pre-menopausal. The peak age group for the cancer is 45 to 50 for Chinese women, five to 10 years younger than Western counterparts.

Women in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai have double the incidence of breast cancer than the national level. Breast cancer for local women accounts for 29 percent of the total female cancer cases in the city in 2005, experts said.

"Breast cancer is treatable but the key to successful treatment is early detection and diagnosis," said Dr Shao Zhimin, director of Fudan University's breast cancer research institute. "Risk factors include family history, age, fatty diet, obesity, never giving birth, never breast feeding, having other chronic breast diseases and living an irregular lifestyle."

(Shanghai Daily June 30, 2007)

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