Breast Cancer Screening Singapore
What is breast cancer screening?
Breast Cancer Screening involves checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before any signs or symptoms of the disease by using a technology known as mammography to generate a mammogram x-ray of the breast tissue. Although Breast Cancer Screening cannot prevent Breast Cancer, it can find Breast Cancer earlier, leading to a better chance of treatment outcome. Speak to your doctor on the risks and benefits of screening, and decide with your doctor whether screening is needed for you.
MOH (Ministry of Health) recommends going for a mammogram screening for different age groups of women in Singapore:
Women aged 50 years old and above – Mammogram screening every two years
Women aged between 40-49 years old – Mammogram screening one time a year
Women below the age of 40 – No need for mammogram screening
Women who have risk factors, or any abnormal symptoms or concerns should speak to their doctor. Based on individual breast cancer risk factors and concerns, you may be advised to go for more frequent mammogram screenings. One mammogram screening a year for breast cancer is usually sufficient, but depending on your risk factors, your doctor might recommend that you go for two or more mammograms a year.
Although having risk factors increase your chances of having Breast Cancer, not having any of the risk factors does not mean immunity against Breast Cancers, hence the importance of breast screening in Singapore.
Breast Screening Singapore – What is Mammogram Singapore?
Mammography screening is a type of diagnostic screening test for breast cancer markers. It is a low dose x-ray that can be used to detect the existence of cancer amongst breast tissue. It generates images known as mammograms, used primarily for early detection of breast cancer.
Generally, the most telling sign of breast cancer amongst women is feeling a lump in their breast. However, the aim of a mammogram is to detect cancer among pockets of breast tissue before it can be felt as a lump.
Singapore Cancer in Women – What are some of the breast cancer risk factors?
While women aged 50 and above should still be going for regular mammograms to detect breast cancer, there are several breast cancer risk factors that would heighten one’s risk of getting breast cancer. According to the Singapore Cancer Society, here are some of the most important risk factors in getting breast cancer.
Being overweight or obese – Women who are overweight or obese will have a higher risk of developing breast cancer at an early age. Once women hit menopause near their 50s, their ovaries largely stop producing the female hormone estrogen. After menopause, estrogen is mostly produced by a woman’s fat tissue. Having a higher body fat percentage would mean a higher estrogen level, which will heighten the risk of a women getting breast cancer.
Dietary factors – Similarly, having a healthy diet will reduce a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. Studies suggest that a diet that is very low in fat will reduce the risk of cancer in women. A daily diet with at least two servings of vegetables and fruit with a saturated fat intake of less than 10% of total calories is highly recommended.
Regular exercise – Keeping a regular exercise regimen is considered to have a positive effect towards lowering cancer risk for women in Singapore. Around 45 minutes of exercise 5 to 6 days a week is recommended by the Health Promotion Board of Singapore.
Smoking & Alcohol consumption – Alcohol consumption affects liver function. The liver is the primary organ that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood levels of estrogen, the main hormone that leads to the development of breast cancer. The Health Promotion Board recommends that women consume no more than one standard drink per day. Smoking has also been linked to a small increase in breast cancer risk in women.
Usage of oral contraceptives – Women who are using oral contraceptives will have their hormone levels affected, which can cause a slight risk for breast cancer. However, this only refers to recent use and this effect only happens for a limited amount of time. If a woman has stopped using oral contraceptives for a period of 10 years or more, then this does not apply to them.
Pregnancy – For many women, this is one of the risk factors that are completely out of your control. When a women is pregnant, they stop their usual menstrual cycle, which lowers the total number of menstrual cycles they will ever experience in their life. This appears to increase the chance of breast cancer in the future. On the other hand, breastfeeding has been shown to actually lower the risk of breast cancer in women.
How can I protect myself from Breast Cancer?
Every female above the age of 30 should examine their own breast once a month, ideally a week after menses.
- Stand in front of the mirror, look for asymmetry of the size and shape of breasts, nipples, and any skin changes
- Repeat Step 1 in different positions, such as with your arms raised above your head, hands on the hip, and turning slowly sideways
- In a standing position, using your fingers, feel your breast tissue in circular, organized motion outwards to inwards.
- In a standing position, using your fingers, feel underneath your armpits for any abnormal lumps.
- In a standing position, gently squeeze your nipple to look for any abnormal discharge or bleeding.
- Repeat Step 3-5 while in a lying position.
Regular Follow up with your doctor
A mammogram is an X-ray procedure that may cause some mild discomfort, but is generally well tolerated by patients. The radiographer will place your breast between 2 flat plates and compress the breast tissue a couple of seconds to capture a good clear X-ray view. Going for a mammogram is a painless and hassle-free activity, so it is recommended that women.
Ultrasound screening for breasts tissue
Ultrasound screening breasts is a procedure using high-frequency sound waves to visualize the insides of your breast tissues, screening for any abnormal lumps.
Your doctor may recommend you go for a ultrasound screening for breasts if you are below the age of 40. This is because younger women have denser breasts and a mammogram screening is not effective in detecting cancer.
- Eat healthy nutritious, high fiber low-fat food
- Exercise regularly
- Keep a healthy weight
- Moderate alcohol drink – less than 1 drink per day, or avoid altogether
Early detection of Breast Cancer places you at a better chance of survival. Treatment for early stages of Breast Cancer gives a survival rate of more than 90%. For this reason, it is imperative for women to check their breasts regularly for any changes, and speak to your doctor if any concern.
As always, be breast aware, self-examine, go for regular checkups, and speak to your friendly doctor.