Breast Cancer Screening Singapore
Breast Cancer in Singapore
The most common type of cancer among women in Singapore is breast cancer. In the last thirty years, there has been a marked increase in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide. 70% are early breast cancer cases. Research has shown that one in every twenty women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes.
Survival rates increase to nearly 90% when cases are detected and treated at an early stage. This is why our doctors recommend that women check their breasts regularly or go for breast cancer screening regularly to try to detect any changes. They also recommend scheduling an appointment even if you have the slightest concern to detect early breast cancer.
I have detected a breast lump from my monthly breast self examination. How can I know if it is typical or if it is cancer?
It is common for breast lumps to be benign and it may result from changes that occur naturally during a woman’s hormonal cycle. However, should you detect any abnormality we always recommend a visit to our clinic for a breast cancer screening and further investigation.
A female doctor will conduct thorough screening tests including a mammogram or X ray as breast cancer occasionally presents itself as a bump or lump over a breast tissue.
What are the earliest signs of breast cancer in Singapore?
Unfortunately, the earliest stage of breast cancer offers no symptoms, so early detection can be pretty hard. In Singapore, you need to be screened via a mammogram to detect cancer. As breast cancer progresses, women can experience some of the following symptoms:
- A painless palpable lump
- A persistent rash around the nipple
- Unusual bleeding from the nipple
- Nipple discharge
- The skin of the breast begins to swell, pucker, or harden.
- The nipple retracts
- Breast pain, but this is not a reliable indicator of breast cancer
How can I assess my risk of getting breast cancer?
The underlying causes of breast cancer remain a complex combination of environmental and genetic factors. As a woman gets older, she is at greater chance of breast cancer, some of the common risk factors include:
- A family history of ovarian or breast cancer
- A history of ovarian cancer
- A personal history of breast diseases or breast cancer
- Menstruation started early
- Having your first child after the age of 40
- Never having children or having a less than average amount
- If you have taken hormone replacement therapy
Should I be worried if a member of my family gets breast cancer?
Women are at an elevated risk of contracting breast cancer if any of the following are true:
- You have a history of breast cancer in your close family, sister, aunts or mother.
- Your family has a history of colon cancer or ovarian cancers.
- One of your family members contract breast cancer before the age of 40.
What should I do to help reduce my risk of breast cancer?
Early detection is key. You need to get a regular health screening and mammogram, live a healthier lifestyle and commit to giving yourself a monthly breast self-examination. Here are examples of healthy lifestyle choices:
- Adopt a high fibre, low-fat, nutritious diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink as little alcohol as possible. Less than one drink a day, or avoid drinking altogether
- Self-breast examination
- Be screened and detect early changes. Find out more on our health screening packages.
What will a breast cancer screening involve? (Mammogram Screening)
A comprehensive breast screening will involve mammogram screening and blood tests, physical examinations and scans such as ultrasound. During your consultation with the doctor, these options will be discussed with you to see which best suits your needs.
What to Prepare Before a Mammogram Breast Screening Test:
- Do not use any perfumes, powders, deodorants, or sprays for over a day in the region of your breasts.
- Always inform the radiographer if you are pregnant.
- There is no need to fast before the screening.
- Always bring your medical records; this will allow our doctors to get a clearer picture of your medical history; this will be important when choosing any continuity of care.
- To minimise discomfort, you may take painkillers before the procedure.
Is there a difference between a Mammogram Screening and a Breast Ultrasound in Singapore?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts, the radiographer places your breast between 2 plates and compresses it to capture an accurate and unobstructed view of the breast.
An ultrasound is formed by using high-frequency waves of sound to create an image of the inside of your breast, this will indicate the presence of any abnormal lumps for women under the age of 40. For women over the age of 40, an ultrasound may not be as effective on their dense breast tissue and a mammogram is recommended.
Will having breast enhancement surgery increase my risk of getting breast cancer?
Breast enhancement surgery like breast implants do not cause breast cancer. However, it is worth noting that breast implants are associated with a kind of cancer involving your lymphatic system known as anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ACLC). It is postulated that the kind of implants used may trigger the immune response that attributes to cancer.
Where can I go for a mammogram/breast cancer screening in Singapore? Are there breast screening centres?
Both public and private clinics in Singapore offer mammogram screening. Under the Health Promotion Board’s Screen for Life program, women aged 50 and above can benefit from subsidised mammogram screenings which cost $50 for Singapore citizens , $25 for Pioneers (women aged 65 and above) and $75 for Permanent Residents. Additionally, for women aged 50 and above in Singapore, they can use their Medisave account to do a mammogram screening at Medisave-approved centres.
Your eligibility for Screen for Life subsidies depend on your age, gender and date of last mammogram screening. Please visit the Healthhub website to check your eligibility for Screen for Life subsidies.
Is a mammogram/breast cancer screening painful?
Different women experience varying levels of discomfort, but it’s more common in women with firm and dense fibrocystic breasts.
To minimise any pain, schedule a mammogram or screening a week after your menstrual period or take a painkiller before the mammogram.
I don't have a family history of breast cancer. Does this mean I'm safe?
Many think of this cancer as an inherited disease. However, it is believed only 5-10% of this cancer is hereditary. Thus, it is highly encouraged to go for a screening once every two years.
Does a mammogram involve radiation exposure? Should I be concerned?
The radiation that comes with a mammogram screening process is extremely low and the risk of harm is not much to be worried about.
Should I still do a mammogram even if I don't feel any lumps during my monthly breast self examination?
A mammogram is currently the most reliable way to screen for breast cancer. It can detect cancerous lumps even before they can be felt through a breast self examination by hand.
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