Breast cancer is the top cancer for women in Singapore. Every year about 1850 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and over 400 die from the disease. 1 in 11 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime.
Some of the risk factors include early menarche, late menopause, breast cancer in close members of the family especially in a relative below the age of 40 years and in those who have a history of other cancers, especially cancer of the ovary and colon.
Some of the symptoms include a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area, changes in the nipple or skin such as a persistent itch/rash, nipple discharge, nipple retraction and pain.
Screening for early detection
In the early stages of breast cancer, mammography and ultrasound scans are used to detect breast cancer even before the lump can be felt by regular monthly self breast examination.
Mammography is currently the most reliable screening tool. Radiation exposure during mammogram is very low and hence the health risk is also very low. The sensitivity of mammography is much lower in women with dense breasts,hence it may be advisable, after discussion with your doctor, to also do an ultrasound breast to increase the detection of breast cancer in women at risk and with dense breasts. Otherwise, ultrasound breast is not routinely required.
Normal risk, asymptomatic women under 40 years do not need to undergo breast screening.
Women at normal risk, aged 40-49 years should be informed of the benefits and limitations of mammography and it should be done annually.
Women at normal risk, aged 50 -59 years should have a mammogram done every 2 years.
Regular breast screening in women aged 40 years and above can reduce the mortality rate by up to 50%.
By Dr Sharon Kaur Minhas