Pop star Kylie Minogue's announcement that she has early-stage breast cancer and is undergoing treatment is sad news for her fans, especially those who were looking forward to her concert in Hong Kong on June 23. That show, along with her Australian and Asian tours, has been cancelled, although she has promised to reschedule the performances after being cleared of the disease. When that will be is beyond Minogue's control; just 36 years old, she is young to get breast cancer and doctors say that women under 40 who are diagnosed with it generally have a more aggressive variety. Her reality is that while mortality rates have fallen in recent years, probably because of improved treatment, she has an 80 to 90 per cent chance of beating it and fulfilling her promise. The Australian star is among an increasing number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer. As many as one in 10 women will get it and a fifth of them are likely to die from it. A problem is awareness - early detection means sufferers have a better chance of survival, but too many women still do not have regular examinations, if at all, before it is too late. About 40 Hong Kong women are diagnosed each week, making it by far the most prevalent form of cancer affecting females in the city. During their lifetime, women in Hong Kong will have a one-in-23 chance of getting it, while 1 per cent will die of it. The number of women treated for breast cancer is increasing - it was up 81 per cent in 2002 from a decade earlier. Being overweight, having a fatty diet and smoking are among the likely causes. But in Hong Kong, as in the rest of the world, too little attention is paid to breast cancer. Most women do not have the recommended two or three checkups before the age of 40 and one a year thereafter. Worse, the government pays less attention to it than cervical cancer, which is less of a killer. Just 13 government-funded health centres offer partly subsidised mammograms, and then only to women aged 50 and above. Japan and South Korea have more effective prevention programmes - and far lower rates. Doctors agree that, as in Minogue's case, when detected early the disease is highly treatable and the survival rates are high. The singer is likely to have surgery to remove the cancer and then undergo either chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy. The popular entertainer is among the unlucky minority of women to get breast cancer. But unlike most, she has done the right thing, finding the cancer through self-examination. Even more commendably, she has not hidden her problem but used her high public profile to highlight it. Minogue is an inspiration for women. Like her style of entertainment or not, she has approached breast cancer as doctors recommend - and increased awareness as few others can.