Breast cancer is the most common women’s cancer in Singapore. Breast cancer need not result in death. The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer exceeds 90% when detected and treated early. Screening mammogram is the effective way to detect breast cancer early. Women aged 50 and above should get mammogram done every 2 years. Women aged 40 to 49 can screen for breast cancer annually if have understood the benefits and limitations of screening in this age group.
How common is breast cancer in Singapore?
Breast cancer is the most common women’s cancer in Singapore. There are over 2,000 newly diagnosed cases each year. 1 in 14 women will develop breast cancer before the age of 75. Breast cancer accounts for 1 in every 3 cancers diagnosed in women. Over 400 women die from breast cancer each year.
Am I at risk?
Most women are at risk of breast cancer, and the risk increases if:
1) You are 50 years and older; and/or
2) Your mother, sister or daughter has had breast cancer.
Besides the age and family, other risk factors are:
3) Early onset of menstruation.
4) Late menopause.
5) Having your first child after the age of 30.
6) Having few children or never having children.
7) Being on hormone replacement therapy.
8) Weight gain, especially after menopause.
9) Drinking alcohol.
10) A history of ovarian cancer.
Why is screening important?
Early stages of breast cancer show no signs or symptoms. The earlier a cancer is found, the better the treatment options and the greater the chances of survival. Breast cancer need not result in death. The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer exceeds 90% when detected and treated early, compared to around 15% for women diagnosed at the most advanced stage.
Who should go for screening?
1) You do not have any breast symptoms at the moment (for example lumps, bleed or discharge from the nipple, pain in the breast etc.) and
2) You are above the age of 50 years or
3) You are between the age of 40-49 and decide to go for your mammogram after you consulted your doctor
If you have possible genetic risk for breast cancer, e.g. personal history of breast cancer/ovarian cancer, family history of breast cancer/ovarian cancer or known BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation, please consult your doctor first.
How frequent do I do the screening?
Once every 2 years for women aged 50 and above.
Annually for women aged between 40 and 49 if you have sought a doctor’s advice on the benefits and limitations of mammography, and is recommended to do screening.
How should I prepare for a screening mammogram?
1) Before screening:
Your menstruation can increase breast tenderness and tissue sensitivity. To avoid discomfort during the mammogram, arrange for your appointment to fall at least one week after the first day of your menstruation
2) Day of screening:
Wear a two-piece outfit as you will need to undress from the waist up.
Do not use any perfume, deodorant, powder or ointment on your underarms or breasts as this can affect image clarity
What happens during my mammogram?
A breast X-ray done to detect abnormal changes in breast tissue.
During the process, a female radiographer positions your breast between two flat plates and compresses it for a few seconds while an X-ray is taken.
The process is performed on one breast at a time.
You may experience some discomfort during the process. Be sure to inform your radiographer if you are in pain.
Try to relax and breathe calmly during the procedure.
How can I be more breast aware?
Monthly self-examination can improve your awareness of your own breasts and help to detect breast cancer early before it spreads.
What are the symptoms and signs of breast cancer?
Early breast cancer usually does not have any symptoms. This is why regular mammograms are important. If you experience any of the symptoms described below, please see your doctor immediately.
(Picture quote from https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/20/breastcancer)
What can I do to reduce my risk of developing breast cancer?
Reduce alcohol intake.
Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, practising regular breast self-examinations and going for regular mammograms can reduce your risk.
https://www.healthhub.sg/topics on breast cancer and “Screening for Life” program
The Breast Book, https://www.bcf.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Breast-Book-EL.pdf
Cancer screening 2010, MOH clinical practice guidelines