A woman in HCM City gets mammographic screening to control her risk of contracting breast cancer. (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA)  — Young women aged less than 25 and men suffering from breast cancer has become not uncommon in Vietnam, said Dr Tran Nguyen Ha of the Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital.

“Five years ago, few patients less than 25 were diagnosed with breast cancer,” Ha said, adding that dozens of these cases now are treated at the hospital.

The latest case was a 18-year-old girl, he added.

According to him, although the prevalence of breast cancer is still lower in Vietnam than the global average, with 23 cases per 100,000 population, the trend is increasing. Breast cancer is most common in Vietnam among patients aged 45 to 55, younger than the global average.

The number of patients with breast cancer has increased year-by-year, with nearly 2,000 incidences at the Oncology Hospital, double that of previous years.

Dr Pham Xuan Dung, Director of the Oncology Hospital, said that the increasing incidences detected are the result of improved awareness about this cancer via government communication programmes.

The proportion of patients with breast cancer who are diagnosed at early stages has risen to 60 percent in the last five years from 40 percent in the previous time, Dung said.

“If detected at the early stages, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent,” he said, adding that this positive figure is due to advanced treatments including drugs available in the country.

However, the remaining 40 percent of patients with breast cancer detected at late stages are a health burden for the country, Dung added.

Ha said that 20 percent of them were tested positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), known as protein overexpression.

It causes cancerous cells to grow and spread to other organs in the body faster than in patients with normal levels of protein, and it was very difficult to treat.

Speaking at a conference on new progress in the treatment of breast cancer with the application of HER2, which is a gene that can play a role in the development of breast cancer, held on November 4 in HCM City, Ha said that new advanced drugs, which are available in the country, help solve this difficulty.

Dr Paul Mainwaring of Centre for Personalised Nanomedicine in Australia said that they have not only helped prolong the lives of patients with breast cancer at these late stages but also improve the quality of life, which is very important.

“These new advanced drugs and technologies give doctors more choices in treatment in order to bring the best benefits to their patients. Helping patients access treatments is very vital because these new advanced drugs and technologies are very costly,” Dung said.

The cost is a common challenge for many countries in the world, including Vietnam, he said, adding that Vietnam’s Government should have a health insurance policy for patients with cancer, including breast cancer.

“The best way to solve cancer is that people should visit health facilities for screenings for early detection and treatment. The cost for treatment at the early stages is very low and the effectiveness of the treatment at these stages is better,” he added.

The conference was held by the city Oncology Hospital in co-operation with the HCM City-based representative office of Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. –VNA