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Conversation with Dr Hui Ling Chia, Breast Reconstruction Surgeon in Singapore

Dr Hui Ling Chia is a consultant plastic surgeon at SW1 Clinic and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Singapore. An award-winning surgeon, she is known for her excellent work in aesthetic surgery and her passion for breast reconstruction. In 2013 she co-founded Breast Reconstruction Awareness Singapore, a non-profit society run by plastic surgeons. We chased her on BRA Day for an interview.

What kind of behaviour change would you like to see in your patients?

Dr Hui Ling Chia: To be stronger than before. And I see many of my patients become just that. The intrusion of a cancer diagnosis and treatment strengthens their character, and they embrace life with more zealousness than ever.

BRA Day

BRA DAY (Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day) is an initiative that aims to promote correct and complete information on breast reconstruction.

A symbol of femininity and memory of motherhood, the initial thought of losing your breast/s to cancer is devastating to women. Breast reconstruction (BR) aims not only to restore the physical breast form but, more importantly, her well-being.

I believe that BR helps women cope better with their cancer treatment and move on with life after that. Numerous reports have shown that women score better after BR, with less depression and anxiety. BR is important in breast cancer rehabilitation and closes the loop after breast cancer.

What one thing would make the biggest difference in your industry?

Dr Hui Ling Chia: That we reconstructive surgeons continue to innovate more reconstructive options to give our patients the best outcome with less invasiveness and morbidity for patients.

Why should it matter to breast cancer patients?

Dr Hui Ling Chia: With a ten-year survival rate of more than 90% in early breast cancer, we cannot neglect to restore the quality of life for breast cancer survivors. This is where BR can come in to make a difference for many women, making them feel whole again, as many continue to live out a normal life expectancy.

What will happen if patients ignore the option of plastic surgery post-mastectomy?

Dr Hui Ling Chia: Most of the time, BR is a choice rather than a necessity. It is more important for women to understand its benefits. So they know how it can help them post-mastectomy. These include Improved psychosocial well-being, better body balance, freedom with prosthetic (sponge), and easily fitting into conventional bras and clothes.

In terms of breast cancer prevention, what practical actions can we take?

Dr Hui Ling Chia: Focus on your breast health and adopt these simple habits all year long.

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight of BMI less than 23. Obesity is associated with breast cancer.
  2. Adopt an active lifestyle with regular exercise.
  3.  Drink less alcohol. Alcohol is one of the most well-established dietary risk factors for breast cancer. Women who consume more than two glasses of alcohol a day are at higher risk.
  4. Eat more veggies (more cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), dark leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries and cherries.
  5. Early detection saves lives. Current recommendations include a breast self-examination every month. For women between the ages of 40 to 50: a mammogram every year after consultation with their doctor. For women above the age of 50: a mammogram once every two year
  6.  Quit smoking (if you haven’t).

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