According to World Cancer Research Fund International, breast cancer is the leading cancer in women throughout the world, with almost 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in the year 2012. Unfortunately, Singapore is not spared from this dreaded disease.

Overview of the Breast Cancer in Singapore

In 26 May 2015, the Health Promotion Board released the report entitled “Singapore Cancer Registry, Annual Registry Report, Trends in Cancer Incidence in Singapore, 2010-2014.” Included in this report are the latest statistics for breast cancer in the country.

The report lists breast cancer in Singapore as the No. 1 Most Frequent Cancer in females. From the period of 2010 to 2014, 9,274 cases were diagnosed (accounting for 29.2% of all cancers that afflict women). The current estimate is that one in 15 women will develop breast cancer before they reach the age of 75. Breast cancer is also the No. 1 Most Frequent Cancer Death among Singaporean women at 17.6% compared to other cancers.

Majority of the above cases were in Stages I and II. The greatest number of Stages I and II cases were found in the 55 to 64 age group. An increase in the age-specific incidence rate was noted from age 30 to 39. This was followed by a peak in the 60 to 69 age group. After age 70, there is an observed decline in the number of breast cancer cases.

Because diagnosis of breast cancer was done in these early stages, a major increase in the survival rates was observed from the periods of 2005-2009 to 2010-2014. This improvement in survival rates can be attributed to advancements in breast cancer treatment, Singapore being one of the leaders in cancer research and treatment in Asia. However, in women with Stage IV breast cancer, a marked decrease in survival rate was noted.

According to the data on age-standardized mortality rate, breast cancer remains the No. 1 cause of death among all cancers found in women. During the period of 2010-2014, 2,049 women died from breast cancer. However, the age-standardized mortality rate has remained stable since 1990, with no significant increases or decreases noted.

The report also stated observed trends in relation to ethnicity. Overall, it is ranked No. 1 Most Frequent Cancer by ethnicity. Chinese female residents have the highest incidence at 65.9%. They are followed by Malay female residents at 60.3%. Indian female residents account for 59.3% of cases. These figures indicate that Chinese women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to women in other ethnic groups. However, the reverse is seen when it comes to survival rates. Chinese women have the highest rate of survival at 72.71% in 2010 to 2014, while Indian women are at 66.28% and Malay women are at 53.81%.

Survival rates by age group showed highest among women age 15 to 44. This figure gradually declines up to the 65 to 74 age group from 86.45% to 81.74%. But once a woman is 75 years old and older, her survival rate drops significantly to 54.71%.

While all of these figures show a positive trend of improving survival rates due to early diagnosis, there is still much that needs to be done to lower mortality rates among breast cancer patients in Singapore.