Why is Breast Screening Important?
All women are at risk
Early detection saves lives
Stage 1 cure rate > 90%
Avoid removal of entire breast
Breast screening is a vital component of women’s healthcare because it can lead to early detection, improved survival rates, and a better overall quality of life for those at risk of breast cancer.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the result of abnormal cell growth in the breast which multiply and form a malignant tumour that has the potential to invade other parts of the body. Breast cancer most commonly first appears in the cells lining the milk ducts.
Symptoms to look out for
- Persistent lump in the breast or axilla
- Change in breast skin colour or appearance, such as redness, puckering or dimpling
- Change in breast size or shape
- Discharge from the nipple, especially if it is bloody
- Change in the nipple or areola, such as scaling, persistent rash, or nipple retraction
Breast cancer detection and breast screening
This is a visual examination of skin and tissue. The doctor performs a manual inspection for unusual texture or lumps and determines whether additional checks are recommended.
An ultrasound is a scan that uses sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body with no radiation. Breast ultrasounds can determine if a lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst. Cysts are usually not cancerous, while a solid lump may require further investigation or biopsy depending on the shape.
A mammogram is a screening tool used to detect breast cancer today. It is a type of breast imaging that uses low-energy x-rays to examine breasts and detect cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable. Mammograms give a picture of the internal structure of the breast and can detect cancerous masses and malignancies even before they can be felt by hand. Other tests may be required to determine if a lump is cancerous.
Screening mammograms are performed once a year for women between the ages of 40 and 49, and once every two years for women above the age of 50. Usually, two or more images are taken of each breast.
If there are any specific areas of concern or symptoms such as lumps, tenderness, nipple discharge, or skin changes, a diagnostic mammogram is performed. Diagnostic mammograms are more detailed than screening mammograms. Always let your doctor know if you have any specific areas of concern or symptoms.
A breast biopsy is a procedure where tissue is taken from the suspected site. The removed cells are analysed using a microscope. Only a biopsy can confirm if a suspicious area is cancerous.
Can breast cancer be treated?
Breast cancer is potentially curable. Non-invasive types of breast cancer such as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) or Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) may be cured if detected in the early stages.
Why Choose Us?
The Centre for Screening and Surgery (CSS) specialises in the screening and detection of cancer in its early stages. We perform breast screening with a high-resolution ultrasound machine and in-house mamotome biopsy equipment which detect potential breast cancers.
All women are at risk of developing breast cancer, and the probability increases with age and family history. Each year, over 2,000 women in Singapore receive a breast cancer diagnosis and the illness claims more than 400 lives. 1 out of 13 women in Singapore will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Your risk increases if you are above the age of 40, or if your mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer.
If you are aged 40 to 49, you should go for annual breast screenings. If you are 50 years old and above, it is advisable to go for a mammogram screening once every two years. Women younger than 40 are not suitable for mammograms. An ultrasound would be more appropriate to assess any breast lumps. Due to their denser breast tissue, any abnormalities may not be as easily visible on mammography. Speak with your doctor about the advantages and constraints of getting mammograms at your age.
Prepare copies of your prior mammograms and diagnostic imaging records to bring along to your appointment. On the day of your appointment, we recommend wearing a two-piece outfit instead of a dress or jumpsuit, as you will be required to remove your clothing from the waist up and change to a gown.
Bring a hair tie or clip to secure your hair during the mammogram so that it does not slip into the image. You may be asked to remove jewellery and accessories, so it would be best to leave these at home. DO NOT use talcum powder, body lotion, or deodorant on the chest area and armpits as these may show up on the mammogram.
To minimise any discomfort, do not schedule your mammogram in the week prior to your period. Be sure to inform your doctor or radiographer if there is a possibility that you are pregnant.
You will be asked to stand in front of an x-ray machine and your breast is placed on a plastic plate. Another plate will firmly squeeze your breast while the x-ray is taken. Compression is necessary to evenly spread out the breast tissue and allow the doctor to see through it. The compression typically lasts only a few seconds, and the paddle is released once the image is taken. You should not feel a lot of pain, although women with sensitive breasts feel discomfort and a feeling of pressure. You may consider taking an over-the-counter painkiller 45 to 60 minutes before your appointment.
You will usually receive your results within a few days of your appointment.
An abnormal mammogram result does not always mean that you have cancer. The doctor will need to perform additional tests such as an ultrasound, MRI, and/or biopsy to determine the issue. The majority of women sent back for more testing may not have cancer and instead may instead have a benign breast condition. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, stay calm and do not delay treatment. Remember that breast cancer is treatable, and you have a higher chance of beating it when it’s detected early!