The cure rate for breast cancer has risen sharply over the past 10 years because of advances in technology. 'The cure rate is lying at 80 per cent, turning it into a less lethal disease,' said Dr William Foo, director of Hong Kong Baptist Hospital's radiotherapy and oncology centre. Yet women should not let their guard down when it comes to regularly checking their breasts to see if they have any symptoms of the disease. Women over the age of 40, or those who have an immediate family member, including a mother, sister or grandmother, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, should also have an annual breast examination. The Pink Revolution, an annual breast cancer campaign which runs through the whole of October, concurrently with the international month of breast cancer awareness, began in 2001. It was started by the Hong Kong Cancer Fund to promote the importance of early detection. 'The word 'cancer' may frighten most people, but if you conceal your disease, you cannot expect to be cured. Early detection is the key to ensuring the most effective and successful treatment for the patient,' said Sally Lo, chairman of the Hong Kong Cancer Fund. Ways to check if you have any symptoms of breast cancer can be found on the campaign website and they include changes in the breast, nipple and arm. About 90 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer initially find a lump in their breast, sometimes followed by a change in size or shape of the breast, dimpling of the skin and thickening of the breast. Symptoms that can be found at the nipple area include a blood-stained discharge, a rash in the area and the nipple becoming inverted, lumpy or thicker. For the arms, there may be swelling of the armpit. Foo insisted that women who found even the slightest breast cancer symptoms should go to the doctor 'without delay' and get a check-up. Apart from the widespread publicity to raise awareness of the need for early detection, breast cancer is becoming a more prominent topic in the media due to increasing cases in the city. According to the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Registry, breast cancer is the leading form of cancer diagnosed in women in Hong Kong. In 2006, 2,584 women were diagnosed with breast cancer compared with 1,680 cases in 1997. Compared with other Asian countries and cities, Hong Kong has a high rate of women with breast cancer. Foo said that about 50 out of 100,000 Hong Kong women would get breast cancer. This is a higher rate than in less developed countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand, where about 10 to 20 women out of 100,000 would develop the disease. The reason for the disparity can be found in the lifestyles of people in Hong Kong and other developed countries and cities. The problems are not confined to one specific area but include the food we eat or don't eat and the things we do or don't do. Examples given by Foo are smoking, drinking, a lack of eating vegetables and women not having children. Apart from promoting early detection of breast cancer, the Pink Revolution also invites the public to make a donation to the campaign to back its free support services for women and their families affected by breast cancer, and breast cancer-related research projects. Some of the research projects include the use of Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation, which can reduce the radiation treatment time, and Hong Kong University psychosocial research programmes to better understand the emotions women go through after being diagnosed with breast cancer. This year there will be two new fund-raising activities: a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) feature and a new version of Dress Pink Day. The DIY feature on the Pink Revolution website allows participants to organise their own 'pink events' and promote them to their families and friends, who then can make an online donation to show support. The new version of Dress Pink Day offers more flexibility to companies, allowing them to choose any day in October for their office staff to dress in pink. Donors who contribute more than HK$100 will receive a Pink Revolution 2009 photo key ring. Other ways to donate are by simply clicking on the Pink Revolution website and donating online or by shopping for pink items in October from the 'pink partners' that can also be found on the website. Part of the proceeds will be donated towards the Pink Revolution. People can also help cancer patients in other ways besides donating money. No one wants to face cancer alone and most cancer patients felt lost in the beginning, so people could help by being there and listening to them talk, Foo said.