Rebuilding part or all of a breast following cancer surgery isn’t just about looking good. Breast reconstruction can erase disfiguring scars which commonly occur after surgery to remove tumours in the breast.

Looking in the mirror and seeing the imbalances – a deep indentation in the breast, lopsided or unequal breasts, deep scarring, or lack of a nipple – is a painful reminder that hurts a woman’s self-confidence and mental well-being.

“A diagnosis of breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. So we are not just looking at quantity (length) of life, but quality of life,” said Dr Mohamed Zulfikar Rasheed, Consultant, Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of Singhealth Group.

While priority is to treat a cancerous growth, breast reconstruction is an option that patients can and should consider if removal of a breast is recommended or chosen, said Dr Benita Tan, Senior Consultant, SingHealth Duke-NUS Breast Centre.

Age shouldn’t be an issue. “A woman at 50 might think she’s old. But we’re operating on women who are 80 years of age. Our oldest patient who underwent breast reconstruction was 70,” said Dr Tan.

A recent 10-year review of breast cancer treatment in SGH and at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) found that breast cancer surgery is safe for women in their 80s.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer are getting older, in part as life expectancy increases. Women in Singapore can expect to live an average of 86 years today.

By The Numbers

  • Breast cancer is the number 1 cancer in women in Singapore
  • Between 2010 and 2014, about 1,856 women were diagnosed to have breast cancer in Singapore each year
  • Most of the women diagnosed with breast cancer are between the ages of 55 & 59

Ref: Q15