Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women worldwide. Globally, more than 1 million people are newly diagnosed each year, and in Taiwan, breast cancer has surpassed cervical cancer to become the #1 cancer for women in recent years. According to Taiwan’s NHI, 7502 women developed breast cancer – if carcinoma in situ is included, this figure increases to as many as 8304 women (carcinoma in situ makes up 9.65%).

Breast cancer is commonly developed in women from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly in North America; northern, western, and central Europe; and large metropolitan Asian regions including Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. In the past 10 years, breast cancer rates have continued to rise, perhaps due to living environment and changes in dietary habits. As such, in these geographic areas, early diagnosis and treatment have become major public health issues.

To better detect breast cancer in its early stages, every woman should do monthly breast self-examinations and visit the physician every year for necessary check-ups, such as mammography and ultrasound examination. Biopsies can also be performed on areas of suspicion, and pathologists can form diagnoses accordingly. The success of early detection depends on patient participation in hospital screenings and multidisciplinary collaboration among doctors.

Today’s treatment for breast cancer is no longer limited to surgery as before. Though surgeons make the diagnosis most of the time, once the diagnosis is confirmed, they must collaborate with doctors and staff from all specialties, including medical oncology, radiation oncology, psychiatry, rehabilitative medicine, nursing, and social work, to give patients the best care possible.

In 2011, our hospital treated 7.4% of Taiwan’s new breast cancer patients (862 total). We have a strong, highly-skilled Breast Cancer team, which includes case managers who play a crucial role. These case managers step in the same day the diagnosis is confirmed, working closely with the patient and family members to explain the treatment plan, address concerns, and accompany patients from surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy all the way through outpatient follow-up. Over this long-term period, many patients get to know their case manager very well, who often comes to serve as a trusted friend and even medical advisor.

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