Specialist Dental Group has launched an on-going series of blog posts by our individual dental specialists. All views provided are the dentist’s own opinions and are posted on this blog as part of our on-going efforts to educate the public about dental issues and other matters of interest relating to dentistry and healthcare. 

5557629_sThe word “cancer” strikes fear in everybody’s heart but it’s a double blow to women when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s not just a disease; it can potentially demolish a woman’s feminine pride and self-esteem.

In Singapore, almost 1500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. 20% of all cancers in women are breast cancers.

My best friend’s life was claimed by this very cancer 5 years ago. It was heart-breaking to witness the journey she went through: all the rounds of chemotherapy, numerous scans, frequent hospitalization and the high emotional and financial toll on the family. For her loved ones, the devastation of her loss has not diminished after all these years.

All women are advised to learn how to detect the tell-tale breast lumps. However, the majority of lumps are not cancerous.  Women above the age of 40 are also encouraged to get a mammogram done. This helps to rule out the benign lumps that occur frequently.

What is less known are the potential causes of breast cancer.

There are factors we cannot control such as genetics. There is often a very strong family history associated with breast cancer.

In contrast, there are factors that we can control to decrease the chances of developing breast cancer.

Pregnancy is known to decrease the risk, especially if a woman has completed 2 pregnancies before the age of 30. Breast-feeding also cuts the risk of developing cancer. Research has shown that a woman who breastfeeds for a cumulative period of more than one-and-a-half to two years, has a significantly lower risk of contracting this cancer. During the periods of pregnancy and breastfeeding, the hormone estrogen is at a decreased level. This hormone is the known cause for triggering breast cancer.

Studies have also shown a link between breast cancer and periodontal disease. A person is more likely to develop breast cancer if she has poor oral health. It has been found that individuals with chronic periodontal disease had a higher occurrence of breast cancer.

Then the other “social” factors like diet, smoking, alcohol consumption also play a part. In particular, the high fat, high protein, high sodium and high dairy content of the so-called “western diet” increases the risk of cancer.

So my word of advice is: eat healthily, exercise adequately, heed your doctor’s advice on mammograms and schedule a dental check-up at least twice a year And last but not least, guard your financial health by seeking appropriate insurance coverage before any dread disease occurs.

Dr Helena Lee

Dr Helena Lee is a Periodontist with Specialist Dental Group® and a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine. She is an Adjunct Lecturer at the National University of Singapore (Department of Preventive Dentistry). She has co-authored several papers in peer-reviewed journals and has lectured at professional local and international conferences. Dr Lee has a special interest in the treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, gingival plastic surgery, soft and hard tissue grafting and dental implants. For more information on Dr Lee, click here.

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