General

Keep Your Breast Health In Check

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the number one cancer among women in Singapore. According to the Singapore Cancer Registry, more than 25% of all cancers diagnosed in women are breast cancers. Between 2011 and 2015, nearly 2,000 women were diagnosed to have breast cancer each year. Women in Singapore have a 5% chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.

Risk factors for breast cancer

Breast cancer risk increases with age. Other risk factors may include:

Non-modifiable

  • Having a family history of breast cancer affecting a first degree relative (mother, sister or daughter)
  • Having a personal history of malignant or benign breast diseases
  • Early onset of menstruation before the age of 11
  • Late menopause after the age of 55

Modifiable

  • Having the first pregnancy after the age 35
  • Taking hormones (e.g. hormone replacement therapy)
  • Weight gain after menopause
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, red meat and fatty foods
  • Physical inactivity

What can be done to reduce the risk of breast cancer?

  • Limit daily alcohol intake to no more than 1 or 2 standard drinks for women and men respectively
  • Maintain a healthy weight (i.e. body mass index for Asians ranging between 18.5 – 22.9kg/m2)
  • Engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity in a week
  • Breastfeed your child for at least one year whenever possible
  • Understand the risks and suitability before taking any hormones

Signs of breast cancer

Symptoms of breast cancer differ from person to person. Some may experience the following while some may not show any signs or symptoms.

  • New lump in the breast or underarm
  • Persistent rash around the nipple
  • Bleeding or unusual discharge from the nipple
  • Swollen, thickened, dimpled or wrinkled skin overlying the breast
  • Nipple retraction (drawn inwards)

Early breast cancer usually does not show any symptoms. Hence, going for regular health screening is important.

Breast cancer screening

Age

Breast Self-Examination

Mammogram

30 – 39

Once a month

(a week after your menses)

N.A.

40 – 49

Speak to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of going for a mammogram at this age.

If screening is performed, it should be done once a year.

50 and above

Once every two years

Source: Health Promotion Board

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breast. Low doses of radiation are used to generate an image of the breast to look for characteristic masses or microcalcifications.

Mammography has been shown in multiple studies to be the most reliable screening tool in decreasing the number of deaths from breast cancer. This is because it can detect tiny lumps that cannot be felt by hand, which will help to look for early signs of breast cancer. Early detection can increase your chances of surviving breast cancer.

How is a mammogram done?

  • You will stand in front of a special X-ray machine.
  • A radiographer will place one of your breasts between two flat plates and compress for a few seconds. The steps are repeated to obtain a side view of the breast.
  • The other breast will be X-rayed in the same way.

Note: Different women may experience varying levels of discomfort. Do let the radiographer know if your experience becomes uncomfortable and take a break if necessary.

What happens after a mammogram?

If your mammograms are normal, continue with the monthly breast self-examination and go for regular mammograms – annually for women over 40 years of age and once every 2 years for women over 50 years of age. 

Abnormal mammograms should be followed up with further assessments which may include:

  • Taking additional views on the abnormal breast area(s)
  • Doing a breast ultrasound
  • Performing a biopsy from the abnormal breast area(s)

Where can mammogram be done?

At Minmed Health Screeners, we provide mammogram and breast ultrasound services. You may refer to our full list of radiology services and pricing here.

Dr Lisa Chen

M.B.B.S. (Singapore) Grad. | Dip. Occupational Medicine

Dr Lisa Chen is a deeply passionate family physician and designated workplace doctor with an endearing commitment to the successful attainment of health and wellness at individual, workplace and community levels. Having worked widely with family practice clinics and major medical disciplines, she is thoroughly committed to the promotion and sustenance of health and quality of life for everyone.