Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Finance, at the Breast Cancer Foundation 20th Anniversary Pink Ribbon Charity Gala, 29 Sep 2017
29 Sep 2017 Posted in Speeches
Ladies and gentlemen,
Breast Cancer Foundation Patron, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon,
President, Mrs Noor Quek,
Exco Members and staff,
Donors, sponsors and volunteers,
I am delighted to be here with you this evening at the Breast Cancer Foundation 20th Anniversary Gala today. It is a time of celebration of the organisation’s various successes and also a time to bring even more attention to the fight against breast cancer.
Impact of Breast Cancer
- Despite becoming a healthier society, breast cancer is still the most common cancer among women in Singapore1. Let’s just take a quick look at the statistics:
- 1 in 14 women will develop breast cancer before the age of 7522.
- In the period between 2011 and 2015, an average of 5 women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer every day3.
- During the same period, breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths, accounting for 17% of cancer deaths in women4.
So we should acknowledge that breast cancer is not solely a women’s issue – it is a social issue that causes serious disruptions to families, workplaces and society as a whole. Women juggle multiple roles as mothers, daughters, working professionals, caregivers and many more. This means that breast cancer not only affects women’s physical, emotional, mental, social and even financial health, but it also affects the lives of the people around them – their families, friends and workplace colleagues.
The Importance of Screening
Prevention is better than cure and regular screening is key. In particular, it is important to go for cancer screening at the recommended screening intervals because early detection saves lives, saves breasts. From 2011 to 2015, almost 30% of new breast cancer cases were diagnosed at the later stages. Yet only 2 in 5 women aged between 50 to 69 years have gone for breast cancer screening in the last 2 years5.
The low screening rate is likely due to concerns and reservations among women. A local study found that factors such as fear of unnecessary treatment, fear that treatment for early breast cancer may be ineffective, and fear of screening procedure being carried out by a healthcare professional not of a preferred gender were found to be the barriers to screening6. Hence, it is important that awareness efforts address these concerns so that women will be more forthcoming in getting themselves screened for breast cancer.
More should be done to encourage women to come forward to be screened. Men too, can play an important role. Please start by encouraging the women in your lives to go for screening. If you have loved ones around you going through cancer, be the pillar of strength and support for these women by providing the support and encouragement they need.
Employers can promote health in the workplace by encouraging staff to go for health screening. Exercise and keeping fit is important, and employees need to be reminded and encouraged to do so, especially if they are desk-bound for many of their working hours. Additional workplace support for those undergoing treatment will be well-meaning and I’m sure, well-appreciated.
This is a disease I’m familiar with because my sister passed away from breast cancer. And that of course, had a great impact on my understanding and also changed my approach to health and fitness and diet. So I know personally, the impact that breast cancer can have and therefore, would strongly encourage screening and families to support their loved ones if they have it.
Breast Cancer Foundation’s work
I would like to commend the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) for its brilliant work in the past 20 years. This is worth celebrating as we cheer on breast cancer survivors and their families, and continue in our relentless fight against this disease.
Tonight’s 20th Anniversary Pink Ribbon Charity Gala for BCF is a celebration of the resilience of breast cancer survivors and their families. It acknowledges the tireless work of BCF staff, and the contribution of the many supporters, donors and volunteers in BCF’s journey for the past 20 years.
I would like to highlight two of BCF’s initiatives. BCF initiated the first breast cancer support groups that were conducted in English and Mandarin, from its inception 20 years ago.
From these first English and Mandarin support groups set up specifically for breast cancer survivors, to the Men’s Support League focused on men whose loved ones have been impacted by breast cancer, all initiated since BCF’s early years, these have grown to the formation of the Malay, Indian and Expatriate groups and more recently, the Caregivers support group. Each of these meet monthly at support group meetings at BCF where an understanding and caring environment is provided for them to share their emotions and experiences with one another and to ask questions.
Many survivor members have shared how these monthly meetings have helped them gain strength in their journey, and equally importantly, cultivate many close friendships. And they continue to join these support group meetings - so that they can help give strength to others.
For those affected by breast cancer, the network of support provides essential mental, emotional and educational help, at a time when they need a safe and caring environment.
More recently, BCF has conducted a Needs Assessment survey to understand the top unmet psychosocial needs of breast cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers or families - from the point of diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation. BCF will work with relevant partners to identify opportunities and enhance its programmes where specific unmet needs are identified.
Many of you wearing the Pink Ribbon pins – the enduring symbol for breast cancer awareness and it is encouraging that so many of you here today – men, women, individuals, friends and corporates, support this important cause.
We heard Mrs Catherine Ng’s story in the video shown earlier – it is a brave, touching and inspirational one that epitomises the strength of each breast cancer survivor, her journey, and the immeasurable value of strong support in the fight against the challenges she faces. It shows us BCF’s reason for being, and whom it exists to serve. With us this evening, is a brave group of breast cancer survivors, who are participating in tonight’s programme. Please do show your support for them and give them a round of applause.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the role BCF has played in empowering women and their loved ones through these 20 years and it is indeed a wonderful occasion to celebrate.
So, may I congratulate BCF on turning a youthful 20 years old, and may BCF achieve even more in the next 20 years, and beyond.
- Thank you very much.
 Source: Singapore Cancer Registry 2011-2015. A total of 9634 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the period between 2011 – 2015.
 Source: National Registry of Diseases Office
 Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Registry Report 2015
 Source: National Registry of Diseases Office
 Health Behaviour Surveillance of Singapore 2016
 Malhotra, C., Bilger, M., Finkelstein, E. (2016). Barriers to Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening in Singapore: a Mixed Methods Analysis, Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 17 (8): 3887-3895.
Last updated on 16 Oct 2017