According to the World Health Organisation, a total of 7.8 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the previous 5 years and 658,000 deaths were recorded globally. In Singapore, breast cancer tops the most number of cases on record within the years 2016 to 2020. This disease can be fatal when not given the proper treatment. Hence, the Singapore government and MOH highly encourage women to undergo breast cancer screening (https://www.artisanhealthclinic.sg/services/womens-health/breast-cancer-screening). Early detection of this disease can increase a woman’s survival rate to 90% or more.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease that affects the health of the breasts. It happens when the cells in the breast grow out of control while undergoing changes, resulting in the buildup of tissue, otherwise known as tumour. Tumours can spread in the surrounding areas of the breast as well as to the other organs in the body.
While mostly prevalent among women, breast cancer can also develop in men. The risk of being affected by breast cancer is significantly doubled in women who are non-Hispanic.
Breast cancer has 5 stages and has various types:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Invasive lobular carcinoma
- Lobular carcinoma in situ
- Male breast cancer
- Paget’s disease of the breast
- Recurrent breast cancer
- Triple negative breast cancer
Other cancers that may result in breast cancers are:
- Phyllodes tumours
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a type of breast cancer that begins in the milk duct. It is known as Stage 0 or cancer that is in the initial stage. This cancer has minimal risk of spreading to other parts of the breast, making it highly curable. Management and treatment should be set in place as soon as the cancer has been detected to ensure that the cancer does not invade other parts of the body beyond the milk ducts.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of cancer affecting the breast. Despite being rare, this cancer is very aggressive and can progress quickly. Its symptoms are similar to an infection: reddish or purplish skin discoloration, dimpling on the skin, pain, and tenderness in the affected area. Immediately see a doctor if these symptoms are present to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
Invasive lobular carcinoma is cancer that begins in the breasts’ lobules or the glands that produce the milk. As its name suggests, this cancer is one that spreads to the other tissues of the breasts. Invasive lobular carcinoma accounts for around 15% of diagnosed breast cancers.
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is a breast condition that is not considered as cancer outrightly, but its presence is an indicator that breast cancer can be developed at a later time. Lobular carcinoma in situ is identified by abnormal cell growths in the lobules or milk glands of the breasts.
Male breast cancer is a rare form of cancer affecting men. This cancer can develop at any age, but is commonly diagnosed in older men. Finding this cancer during its earliest stage improves the chances of the disease being cured.
Paget’s disease of the breast is a type of cancer that develops in the skin of the areola and nipple. Discovering this cancer can mean that there is an underlying cancer affecting the breasts’ ducts as it is very rare for this disease to only affect the nipple and areola.
Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that returns despite receiving initial treatment aimed to remove all cancer cells. The recurrence of the disease means that there are undetected cancer cells that have managed to evade treatment. It can happen several months or even years after your first treatment and may be discovered at its original site or in other areas of the body.
Triple negative breast cancer is a type of cancer that is challenging to manage and treat. There are usually three markers used to monitor breast cancer: cancer antigen 15-3 (CA 15-3), cancer antigen 27.29 (CA 27.29), and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). All other cancers are easily identified with these, but with triple negative breast cancer, these markers are not present making the disease difficult to cure.
What breast cancer screening can you do to protect yourself from breast cancer?
There are several screenings that you can do in order to protect yourself from breast cancer. You can start by giving yourself regular breast checks at home. You can do this by doing the following:
- Visual inspection
- Physical examination
For visual inspection, stand in front of a mirror without any upper body clothing. Place both of your hands at the back of your head. Observe your breast and see if there are changes affecting its shape, size, and colour. Scan through the surface of your breasts’ skin for any signs of dimpling and check if there are significant changes to the positioning of your nipples.
For physical examination, use the hand opposite breast you are checking and the tips of your three middle fingers of this hand. Starting at the top and outermost part of the breast, gently but firmly press your three middle fingers into your breast. Slowly work your way around your breast from the outside up until you reach the nipple. Feel for any bumps or lumps under the skin as you go along. Repeat the same for the other breast.
Another effective way of detecting cancer is undergoing a mammogram. A mammogram is a clinical procedure that takes an X-ray image of the breasts. Some breast cancers do not show tumours during its early stages, which makes regular breast cancer screening through a mammogram a more efficient way of catching and diagnosing the disease early on.
How often should breast cancer screenings be done?
Below is the recommended frequency to undergo breast cancer screenings for women based on age and average risk of developing breast cancer:
- 40 to 44 years old — Option to undergo annual mammograms
- 45 to 54 years old — Annual mammograms or other forms of breast cancer screening
- 50 to 74 years old — Mammogram or other forms of breast cancer screening every two years
For women who are at high risk of getting breast cancer, a yearly mammogram and breast MRI is recommended by the age of 30.
To know more about breast cancer screening in Singapore, visit Artisan Health Clinic.
Artisan Health Clinic
290 Orchard Road #07-01,
Paragon Medical Suites,
Phone / Whatsapp
(65) 8129 8877