Health in bloom

Workshop on flower yoga helps to increase breast cancer awareness.

Most people think of yoga as an activity that only benefits the person doing it. However, on the morning of 12 October 2018, some 20 women got together for a special yoga session that helped themselves and cancer patients at the same time.

These women had joined Bloom in Pink, a workshop organised by Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) and Expat Living to do a yoga session that incorporated flower arrangement. The women could then choose to send their resulting bouquets to a cancer patient.

The one-hour yoga session was held at the Hard Rock Cafe and was led by instructor Francesca Harriman. The participants were given a few pink rose stalks that they held as they went through different yoga moves. One by one, the rose stalks ended up in a glass jar to form a beautiful bouquet.

Following the yoga session, the participants went to the second floor of the cafe for breakfast and learn more about breast cancer from Dr Wong Chiung Ing, a senior consultant in medical oncology from PCC.

Following Dr Wong’s talk, Ms Aly Khairuddin, a breast cancer survivor, spoke about her journey following a cancer diagnosis in 2015. At the time, she was a 46-year-old Pilates instructor and her cancer was discovered at Stage 1.

Despite being diagnosed early, her journey involved more than six surgeries over two years because of complications from the implants she used following the dual mastectomies. In the end, she decided to remove the implants.

She also talked about going through a gruelling chemotherapy regimen that left her weakened, with severe hair loss. “The kids gave me the strength to get through this,” said the mother of two girls.

Today, however, she is the owner of a Pilates studio that offers Pilates exercises and nutrition coaching. 

Homemaker Louise Harrison, 49, was one of the participants in the Bloom in Pink workshop. She described it as a “fantastic event”. “It was a wake-up call. It made me realise that I have to do something for myself and my children,” said the mother of two daughters. 

Watch your diet, watch your weight

Parkway Cancer Centre’s Dr Wong Chiung Ing looks at how you can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer.

Changing your diet and losing weight can help to reduce your chance of getting breast cancer, said Dr Wong Chiung Ing, a Senior Medical Oncologist at Parkway Cancer Centre.

Speaking at Bloom in Pink, a flower yoga workshop at the Hard Rock Cafe in October 2018, Dr Wong Chiung Ing noted some diets increase the likelihood of some cancers.

“Diets high in fat increase the risk of colon, breast, uterine and prostate cancers,” she said.

Being overweight is also a risk factor for breast cancer. Fat cells make estrogen and extra fat cells make more estrogen. This estrogen can make certain types of breast cancer develop, she said.

However, while diet and weight can be changed to reduce the likelihood of breast cancer, there are other risk factors that cannot be modified. These include age, gender and family history.

Dr Wong noted that the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. For women in their 20s, the risk is one in 1,500. For women in their 50s, the risk is one in 50.

Apart from age and gender, a family history of cancer can also mean that a woman is at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

“If you have a lot of first-degree relatives, including male relatives, who have had cancer, this may be because of an inherited mutation that causes cancer,” she said.

She talked about Hollywood star Angelina Jolie who had both her breasts and ovaries removed even though she did not have diagnosis of cancer. This is because she discovered she had a defective gene that gave her a much higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. She had this checked because her mother had died from ovarian cancer at a very young age.

People with breast cancer respond to treatment better if the disease is caught early.

Overall, breast cancer has a mortality rate of 20 per cent but when detected at an early stage, there is a 90 per cent chance of recovery. However, at Stage 4, the probability of recovery is only between three and seven per cent.

It is, therefore, crucial to monitor regularly for signs of breast cancer, using mammograms, complemented with breast ultrasound scans, as well as regular self-examinations.

Treatment for breast cancer consists of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy. Surgery is important and these days, surgeons try to save the breast so they try to do lumpectomy, which is the removal of the lump, rather than removing the entire breast.

Hormonal therapy is needed because about 80 per cent of breast cancers are stimulated by hormones, she said. Patients may need to take hormone pills to reduce the amount of estrogen in the body.

Patients may have to undergo chemotherapy to kill off cancer cells. “While chemotherapy has lots of side effects, nowadays, there is a lot of medicine to reduce the side effects,” she said.

In addition, there is targeted therapy which uses drugs that are targeted only at cancer cells. This treatment applies to women who have particular subtypes of breast cancer.

While there is plenty of talk of immunotherapy as a new option for cancer treatment, this is not a mainstay of breast cancer treatment currently, she said. “It’s a new treatment option and soon, hopefully, we can get some breakthroughs with breast cancer.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore. Two million new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed around the world in 2017.

Written by Jimmy Yap



Tags: breast cancer, cancer awareness, cancer diet & nutrition, reduce cancer risk, seminar & workshop