Mon, 08 Aug 1994

Breast cancer affects one in ten women: Hospital

JAKARTA (JP): One in every 10 women in Indonesia is likely to develop breast cancer, one of the most malignant types of cancer which can be fatal if not treated early, according to the Dharmais Cancer Hospital.

Harryanto Reksodiputro, the hospital's vice director, said that breast and ovary cancers are the most feared types of cancer because they are believed to be incurable when they reach a certain stage.

In Indonesia, breast cancer ranks the second most frequent occurring type of cancer, accounting for 15 percent of the population, or 27,000 out of every 180,000 people are believed to have cancer. Cervix cancer ranks at the top with 26 percent while ovary cancer ranks sixth with seven percent.

The Dharmais Cancer Hospital on Saturday held a seminar to discuss breast and ovary cancer and methods of curing them.

The hospital said women over 30 years of age who had never had a pregnancy are most vulnerable to both breast and ovary cancers.

Women over 50 years old are advised to take mammograms at least once a year while women between the ages of 20 and 40 years should undergo clinical inspections every three years.

The hospital said women are also advised to regularly check for lumps in their breasts, and although 80 to 90% of lumps are harmless, they could be early symptoms of breast cancer.

Harryanto said cancers can be cured either through surgery, radiation and medication.

Surgery is effective only when the cancer is still in its earlier stage. Once the cancer cells have spread to many parts of the body, radiation and medication are preferable.

Harryanto said at present very few people in Indonesia who have developed cancers seek treatment believing that the disease could not be cured medically. Most turn to traditional doctors.

"Cancer actually can be medically treated, even when it has spread throughout the body. At least the medication can free the patient from the scourge for a certain period of time," he said before the seminar on New Dimension in Cancer Chemotheraphy.


Currently, a number of drugs have been developed to fight cancer, including adiamycin, sisplatin, etoposide and more recently paclitaxel (taxol).

Taxol has been developed by the U.S. National Cancer Institute since 1970s, but only became available in 1990s.

Michael B. Stewart of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute based in Princeton, New Jersey, said the new drug has proven effective for ovary and breast cancers.

He said the institute investigated taxol with a well- controlled study of hundreds of American, Canadian, European and Japanese women.

"We have looked at the actual concentration of the drug in the blood and found no difference between Asian women and European women, with no difference in their response rates as well. So this drug appears to work for both European and Asian women, including Indonesians as there is no reason to think otherwise."

Pharmacologist Armen Mochtar indicated that Taxol, applied here for the first time by the Dharmais Cancer Hospital, may have serious side affects if its applications are not monitored well.

"Cancer is a dilemma. If it is not cured, it will kill the bearer. But if it is cured, the drugs used to cure it can kill the bearer as well," Armen said. (rid)