Introduction: The breast cancer incidence among Singapore women has risen through the years and is now the highest in Asia. Despite efforts to promote a greater awareness of breast cancer among the public, a significant number of patients still present with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Our study aims to evaluate the clinical and pathological characteristics between patients presenting with locally advanced (LABC) and metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and those presenting with early breast cancer (EBC), to identify factors that predict for advanced disease. Materials and Methods: We reviewed 622 patients who were newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in our department over a 4-year period from January 2000 to December 2003. Patient and tumour characteristics including age, parity, family history, tumour size and histology, grade and hormonal receptor status were analysed. Comparisons were made between those with EBC and those with LABC and MBC, as well as between Malay women and women of other ethnic groups. Results: One hundred and thirty-four patients (21.5%) presented with either LABC or MBC. Adjusted analysis found that these patients were older and more likely to be nulliparous than those with EBC. Older patients tend to have larger tumours, but otherwise, age and parity did not correlate with tumour histology, grade or hormonal status. It was noted that Malay women, who were more likely to present with LABC or MBC, were more likely to have oestrogen receptor- and progesterone receptor-negative tumours. Conclusions: Older women and those who were nulliparous were found more likely to present with LABC and MBC. However, age and parity did not appear to be related to tumour histology, grade and hormonal status. Given that tumour size and stage have the greatest impact on overall survival, efforts to raise public awareness of the benefits of early detection and treatment should be continued, and possibly directed towards these groups of women who appear to be at an increased risk of presenting late.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore and accounts for 22.8% of all female cancers.1 The incidence of breast cancer in Singapore has doubled between 1968 to 1972 and 1993 to 19972 and is now the highest in Asia, with an age-adjusted incidence of 53.1 per 100,000 women from 1998 to 1999.3 This is expected to rise further in the coming years to approach that of the Western populations.
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