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Breast Cancer in Singapore

Having Breast Cancer in Singapore – Breast Cancer Explained

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women and it is no surprise that it is the most prevalent cancer requiring treatment among Singaporean women. The statistics for breast cancer in Singapore are pretty grim. Sadly, more than 400 women die from breast cancer each year. We have put together a comprehensive breast cancer segment to answer your pressing questions.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The early stages of breast cancer may have no noticeable symptoms to speak of. However, as cancer grows the following symptoms may emerge:

  • Lump in the breast or armpit
  • Change in the size or the shape of the breast
  • Swelling of the breast
  • Breast skin irritation or dimpling
  • Redness or flaky skin (nipple area or the breast)
  • Inversion of the nipple
  • Abnormal nipple discharge
  • Breast pain/Nipple pain

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

  1. Age
    The risk of developing breast cancer increases as you age.
    Breast cancer can be detected as early as your 20s. However, 70% of women in Singapore with a breast cancer diagnosis are over 40 years old.
  2. Genetics
    Carriers of the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 cancer genes have a 45-65 percent chance of developing breast cancer. Additionally, these genes also increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
  3. Family history
    If you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling child) that has breast cancer, there is a high risk of you having it as well. If this is the case, it is recommended that women who are in their 30s begin early screening.
  4. Hormones
    The following factors increases estrogen exposure which lead to a high risk of having breast cancer:

    Menarche before age 11
    Have not given birth to date
    First childbirth after age 35
    Menopause after the age of 55
  5. Lifestyle
    A high-fat diet, heavy alcohol consumption, high body mass index, and limited physical activity may all increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

How do I protect myself from breast cancer?

The best way to protect yourself from breast cancer is to do regular self-breast checks, clinical breast examination, and screening.
Screening is recommended for women 40 years old and over. However, if you have risk factors, you should talk to your doctor about screening from as early as your 20s or 30s. Breast screening usually involves a mammogram and/or ultrasound of the breasts.

Frequently asked questions on cancer screening


This is a physical breast examination that you do yourself, where you methodically inspect and examine your breasts for abnormalities. These changes may include increased breast size, abnormal nipple color, irritation, and skin dimpling to name a few. This examination should be done at least once a month around the same time.


A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breasts. It is an early detection tool.


A mammogram is performed by A specialized X-ray machine. Your left breast is placed on a horizontal breastplate in the special X-ray machine. Your breast is gently flattened by the second plate that is positioned above. At this point, an image is recorded. Then a side view image is taken and the process is repeated to take the image of the right breast.


There are guidelines that you should follow when preparing for a mammogram:
Avoid scheduling appointments the week before your period or the period week. Your breast will be more swollen and sensitive at those times
Wear a blouse that opens in the front and a bottom so you will only be partially exposed.


It really depends on the individual. Some women feel mild discomfort and others find the process painful. Your level of discomfort will be determined by timing you do your mammogram, breast size, and breast tissue density. Thankfully, a mammogram is not a lengthy process and only takes a few seconds. It will be over before you know it.


You can do an ultrasound instead of a mammogram. Or your doctor may send you for an ultrasound after you have your mammogram. Young ladies with dense breast tissue may benefit more from an ultrasound.

An ultrasound uses ultrasound waves instead of X- Rays to create an image of the breast tissue.


You will need to take off your top and bra and lie on your back on the examination couch.
The radiographer will apply some gel, before moving a small handheld probe over the breast to scan for any abnormal growths.

The ultrasound is completely painless and lasts for 30 mins.

If you have any concerns and would like to be screened, please consult your doctor for further advice.


  1. Tharmapalan, P., Mahendralingam, M., Berman, H. K., & Khokha, R. (2019). Mammary stem cells and progenitors: targeting the roots of breast cancer for prevention. The EMBO journal38(14), e100852.
  2. Bodai, B. I., & Tuso, P. (2015). Breast cancer survivorship: a comprehensive review of long-term medical issues and lifestyle recommendations. The Permanente journal19(2), 48–79.
  3. Gray, J. M., Rasanayagam, S., Engel, C., & Rizzo, J. (2017). State of the evidence 2017: an update on the connection between breast cancer and the environment. Environmental health : a global access science source16(1), 94.

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