Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Singapore. Almost 200 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed per month. The good news is, if detected early, breast cancer has excellent prognosis, and patient remain well for 5, 10, even 20 years after!
One of the proven ways to detect early breast cancer is through regularly yearly mammograms. Unfortunately, people have all kinds of misconceptions about the mammogram. Learn more about the breast screening from Dr Tan Yia Swam, Clinical Director of Thomson Breast Centre.
MYTH 1: RADIATION FROM REGULAR MAMMOGRAMS CAN CAUSE CANCER
The radiation one receives from a mammogram check is about the same as being exposed to environmental background radiation for 2 months, which is completely safe for patients to undergo.
MYTH 2: MAMMOGRAMS ARE VERY PAINFUL
This depends on the woman. Mammograms require compression of the breasts between two plates, to get a clear picture. Most women report it as discomfort, while others might feel it as pain.
MYTH 3: ONLY THOSE WITH A FAMILY HISTORY OF BREAST CANCER SHOULD GET SCREENED REGULARLY
This is completely false. Only five to 10 per cent of all breast cancers are associated with genetic factors. Seventy per cent of women with breast cancer do not have a family history. So all women should get a screening mammogram, once they turn 40, with or without a family history.
MYTH 4: DOING A MAMMOGRAM EVERY FEW YEARS, INSTEAD OF YEARLY, IS FINE
The recommendation for yearly mammogram is based on many years of research, and this is the best interval to get the best chance of detecting a cancer early. Some cancers can grow very fast, and take just a few months to grow to a size that can be felt, so the medical recommendation is to go for a yearly screening once you turn 40.
MYTH 5: YOUNG WOMEN DO NOT GET BREAST CANCER
The Singapore Cancer Registry reported that between 2010 and 2014, 18 per cent of the women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer were under the age of 45. While it is true that cancer is more common as we age, there are many young women below 40 (i.e. not eligible for a mammogram) who develop breast cancer.
One way to help in detection is by breast self examination. Women should start doing breast self-examinations from the age of 20, once a month just after their menstrual period. Besides a lump in the breast, you should look out for nipple discharge, the retraction of the nipple, or skin changes (such as a rash) at the nipple-areolar area.
However, not all changes are due to cancer – so, do not panic! Book an appointment with a breast specialist to get a review.
Thomson Breast Centre
#03-01 Thomson Medical Centre
339 Thomson Road, Singapore 307677
Tel: 6252 5535