Ms Teresa Ng, Assistant Director of Nursing, KK Breast Department (left) who led the pilot test, with Ms Ng Sock Peng (right) who
participated in the pilot test and used the pure cotton breast prosthesis for four years. The comfort of the pure cotton breast prosthesis has
enabled her to wear it habitually.
"Each time I wore the traditional commercially-manufactured breast prosthesis, I would feel uncomfortable and that everybody was staring at me," said Ms
Ng Sock Peng, a 48-year-old dish collector. She discovered that she had stage 1 breast cancer in her right breast in 2011 after receiving a check-up at the
polyclinic, and went for a lumpectomy. In 2016, cancerous cells were discovered in her left breast and she had to undergo a mastectomy.
Ms Ng, who is a single mother, said in an interview, "At that time, both my children were young. My son was 15 years old while my daughter was only 9
years old. My daughter told me, 'Mother, you need to be strong', hence I decided that I have to survive no matter what, and went for the surgery."
After the removal of her left breast, her confidence was affected. Although she wore a traditional breast prosthesis, she was not able to regain her sense of
balance and the prosthesis did not feel natural.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is happening next month. Within the female cancer patient population in Singapore, breast cancer patients constitute the
majority, with more than 2,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) manages about 250 cases of women with breast cancer every year. Last year, some 66 per cent of the patients
underwent a mastectomy, with over half of them deciding to use breast prostheses.
Ms Teresa Ng, Assistant Director of Nursing, KK Breast Department, pointed out that many patients lose confidence after going through surgery and often
cover up their upper body with a scarf. Some do not even have the confidence to step out of the house without wearing a breast prosthesis.
"Almost half of the patients who go through mastectomy do not use breast prostheses and this may be due to the price, fear of the breast prosthesis
dropping, or the perception that it is inconvenient. However, breast prostheses can boost patients' confidence tremendously and help them maintain a good
body image," said Ms Teresa Ng.
Under the leadership of Ms Teresa Ng, a healthcare team in KKH did a study to compare the quality of two types of breast prostheses, with the aim of
finding out the most comfortable one which can also help enhance the recovery process.
Hand-knitted by 30 volunteers
Started in 2016, the study involved 150 patients who underwent a single mastectomy and would be participating in the pilot over a period of four years, to
test and compare the quality of the traditional spandex-in-cotton breast prosthesis with a pure cotton hand-knitted breast prosthesis. After wearing both
types of breast prosthesis for three months each, 70 per cent of the participants preferred to use the pure cotton hand-knitted breast prosthesis.
The pure cotton hand-knitted breast prostheses are knitted by a group of 30 volunteers. Volunteer Ms Yu Chun Lian, 66 years old and a breast cancer
survivor herself, wanted to motivate other breast cancer patients. Based on her own experience, she created these hand-knitted breast prostheses that are
much more comfortable and convenient.
The size of the hand-knitted breast prosthesis is twice that of the traditional breast prosthesis provided by KKH, which enables patients to find a compatible
fit. Ms Ng said, "The most important thing is to be able to wear my existing bras. Wearing the traditional breast prosthesis requires customised bras which
would cause the other breast to have a lack of support."
Equipped with the study results, KKH has officially started offering patients complimentary hand-knitted breast prostheses since January this year. As at
August, the hospital has provided 61 women with the hand-knitted breast prostheses. National Cancer Centre Singapore, Changi General Hospital and
National University Hospital also offer pure cotton breast prostheses.
Ms Teresa Ng emphasised, "Providing comfortable breast prostheses can improve long term treatment results for patients. We also want cancer patients to
know that they can continue to enjoy their hobbies even after undergoing treatment."