In Singapore, the most common cancer diagnosed in women is breast cancer and worldwide, it is reported to be the second most frequent cancer-related death among women. Being a common disease worldwide, early detection of cancer is reported to be beneficial for effective treatment. This is why the medical procedures of screening for breast cancer are advocated by countries like Singapore. To learn more about breast cancer and the screening process done in Singapore, read on below.
- What is breast cancer?
As the name implies, breast cancer starts from the cells of the breasts. It happens when breast cells mutate and spread out of control, resulting in a mass of tissue called tumors. Breast cancer has the ability to spread to and grow within the tissue surrounding the breast, just like other cancers do. Additionally, it has the potential to spread throughout the body and develop into new tumors (also known as metastasis).
Cancer of the breast can be classified into different types where the specific breast cells that develop into cancer dictate the type. Here are some common types:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ
- Lobular carcinoma in situ
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Invasive ductal carcinoma
- Invasive lobular carcinoma
- Paget’s disease of the breast
- Triple negative breast cancer
- What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
Especially in its initial stages, there are commonly no signs of breast cancer. And screening is performed to detect the early signs of the said disease. As the cancer develops to its later stages, symptoms such as the following can be observed:
- a noticeable lump in breast that isn’t painful
- uncharacteristic nipple bleeding and/or nipple discharges
- a swelling, puckering, or hardening of the breast skin starts to occur
- a nipple rash that doesn’t go away
- breast pain is a common complaint (but it is important to know that this symptom does not mean breast cancer at all in some cases)
- Who is at risk of developing breast cancer?
When it comes to who is at risk of developing breast cancer, there are a lot of factors being looked at by medical experts. Naturally, all women are at risk but chances are increased due to the following factors/conditions
- Having an age of 50 years old and above
- Have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in the family
- Reproductive history where menstruation starts early and menopause late
- Having previously diagnosed with breast cancer and/or other cancers
- Having been exposed to treatments involving radiation
- Consumption of alcohol
- How is Breast Cancer Screened in Singapore?
Breast cancer screening is essential because it allows for the early identification of malignant growths before they manifest as palpable breast lumps. It enables early detection so that the proper treatments can be administered.
In Singapore and in other countries worldwide, a thorough breast screening will include physical exams, blood testing, screening with use of mammogram, and scans like ultrasounds to check for breast cancer. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast and is considered a vital element in detecting breast cancer as it can detect the disease before any symptoms occur. A mammogram is currently the most accurate way to detect breast cancer before it can be seen or felt. Aside from breast cancer, a mammogram can also detect any abnormality in the breast tissue. This method has been reported to reduce the risk of death from breast cancer.
Here is what to expect during a screening mammogram:
First, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown (you can just take-off garments from waist and up) and remove any neck jewelry. You will then be asked to stand in front of a specialized X-ray machine and a radiology technician will guide you through the procedure. As part of the x-ray process of the breasts, one of your breasts will be placed on a plastic plate and another plate will squeeze the said breast firmly from above, keeping it secure while the X-ray is done. To take a side view of the breast, you will move to another position and the steps are repeated. The other breast will be X-rayed in the same manner. The pressure during the process of squeezing the breast to get x-ray images can be uncomfortable, but it’s not really harmful. If your discomfort worsens as the procedure progresses, let your technician know right away. After the x-ray, the radiology technician will usually ensure first that the images are good, else you will be asked for the exam to be redone. The results will be sent to your doctor for further examination (if necessary) and diagnosis, etc. Typically, the complete process takes less than 30 minutes. You can then get dressed and carry on with your regular routines, after a go signal from the technician.
To prepare for a mammogram, here are a few tips:
- For at least a day, avoid using perfumes, powders, deodorants, or sprays in the area around your breasts.
- Fasting is not required before a mammogram
- Always bring your medical records such as previous mammograms with you to help the doctor get a better picture of your medical history
- You may take pain relievers prior to the procedure to reduce discomfort that may be felt
Also, another important note, be sure to notify the technician if you are pregnant
- Where to get Breast Cancer Screening in Singapore?
In Singapore, a lot of public and private medical facilities offer breast cancer screens which are conducted by expert and experienced medical professionals. In Singapore, you will be happy to know that breast cancer screening has subsidies in selected/approved facilities which can help cover the cost of screening, as part of a national program to fight breast cancer. The amount of the subsidies will vary if you are a Singaporean citizen, a permanent resident or other eligibility. Medisave can also be used to cover some costs, given the facility is Medisave-accredited. For more information about the costs, subsidies, etc., you should discuss with your preferred medical facility to get an idea on the costs to be expected.
The Health Advisory Clinic
One Raffles Place, #04-49
1 Raffles Place, Singapore 048616
Tel: (+65) 6226 6442
Whatsapp: (+65) 9886 6442