Chow heads cancer alert

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 October, 2008, 12:00am

Semi-retired Canto-pop singer Vivian Chow Wai-man is rarely seen in advertisements these days. However, she is now appearing in an 'infomercial' on television as well as on billboards across the city.

Chow is the new ambassador for the Hong Kong Cancer Fund's annual Pink Revolution, a month-long campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer.

The celebrity has good reason to promote the campaign: as she says in her new spot, six out of 10 close family members have been diagnosed with the disease - including her own mother.

'My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 years ago [when she was 78],' Chow says. 'But she is a true fighter. Although she was in a lot of pain, she never cried once. She is the toughest person I know. Even today she believes she can never be defeated.

'When my mother discovered lumps on her breasts, she promptly consulted a doctor and underwent the operation [to remove the cancer cells] within a week,' Chow recalls.

Chow learned of her mother's illness at about the same time she quit show business and dedicated herself to caring for her. 'It makes a huge difference to any patient if they feel they are not fighting the disease alone. Many breast cancer patients, like my mother, may have to have their breasts removed. They represent the most feminine part of a woman's body, and having them taken away can be mental torture.'

But Chow's mother did recover, after electrotherapy and chemotherapy - only to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer less than five years later. But again, she beat the disease. Today, in her 80s, she is a contented senior citizen.

Her mother's illness forced Chow to break some bad habits. 'I used to do things regardless of the health risks but now I have learned to love life, eat healthy food, get regular rest and [try to] stay calm.'

Figures show that more than 2,300 new breast cancer cases are diagnosed in the city every year, making it the third most common cancer death among local women after lung and colorectal cancer.

Chow's family history of breast cancer raises her risk of developing the disease but she is unfazed. 'I believe it is more important to learn about the disease and get checks regularly. As I am promoting the campaign, I get a regular breast cancer check every October. Breast cancer is curable if diagnosed early.'

Chow offers tips on how to examine your breasts to check for symptoms. 'It's convenient if you are showering. The three steps are: observe, feel and compare. After soaping your body, raise your hands, check for any rashes on your breasts or dimpling of the skin and any strange fluid dripping out around the nipples. Then, gently press the breasts to feel for lumps or thickening skin. Check for any abnormal pain. Finally, compare any changes between the two sides of your breasts.

'If you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. You can also have checks with ultrasound or mammograms. Women over 40, like me, should be examined every year.'

The public can show support by wearing pink on Dress Pink Day on October 24. To learn more, visit the Hong Kong Cancer Fund's website at