PETALING JAYA - Many Malaysian women are still very confused over breast cancer, leading to difficulties when making decisions on how to deal with the disease, experts said.
The situation is further compounded by the fact that many prefer to seek alternative therapies in the early stage of the disease and only get medical help when the cancer has spread.
Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (Carif) chief executive officer Prof Dr Teo Soo Hwang said women also did not necessarily have correct information on the disease.
She clarified that breast cancer was not one disease but 10 different diseases at the genetic level, all of which could be called breast cancer.
Each type needed separate treatments, she said.
"It is different types of treatment for different patients. All of this is very difficult to understand and they need to make decisions," she said.
She added that women who were diagnosed with breast cancer also had other issues to deal with, including body image, psychosocial concerns like fear of losing their husbands or of being disowned by their families because of the stigma and affordability of treatment.
Dr Teo said it was important to know that breast cancer was curable if treated early and with the right decisions and support.
To this end, Carif has undertaken a series of programmes and research, among them a collaboration with the Ladies Professional Golf Association under which funds are used for a subsidised mammogram programme and women who take the test also donate a blood sample for research and answer a questionnaire.
It also has a patient navigation programme to help women make key decisions about their breast cancer.