The Best Protection is Early Detection, Early Detection Saves Lives
Breast Self ExaminationsDetecting breast lumps early can save your breast and cure the cancer. However, in order to safely eliminate the possibility of breast cancer, it should be mandatory for every woman to examine her breasts on a monthly basis or go for regular checks.Regular Breast Self Examinations (BSEs) could assist you in detecting any abnormalities of your breast or nipple. If, during a BSE, you become aware of a lump or notice an unusual discharge, you should consult a doctor to verify.When and how often should I perform BSE?
Warning signs to look out for in BSE
- Examine your breasts regularly once a month
- The best time to perform BSE is about a week after the start of your menstrual period. If you no longer menstruate, do BSE on the same day of each month, for example the first of every month
- You should still do BSE if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have breast implants
See your doctor if you have any of these warning signs. Most lumps or changes in the breast are not cancer but it is important that you see your doctor about them right away.
- A lump, swelling or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- Change in the size or shape of one breast
- Puckering or dimpling of the skin of the breast or nipple
- Persistent rash or change in the skin around the nipple
- Recent change in the nipple appearance e.g. inversion, retraction
- Any bleeding or unusual discharge from the nipple
- Skin redness or sore on the breast
- Accentuated veins on the surface of the breast
- Unusual swelling of one upper arm
- Any enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit and collarbone areas
MammogramsThe best way to protect yourself from breast cancer is to go for regular mammograms. While doing monthly breast self-examination also keeps you aware of any changes to your breasts, the mammogram is currently the most reliable screening tool for breast cancer. It helps detect presence of any cancerous lumps even before they can be felt with the hand.How often should I go for a screening mammogram?
During the process, a female radiographer will put your breast between two flat plastic plates and compress for a few seconds. This is performed on one breast at a time. Some discomfort may be felt but it is important for the breast tissue to be compressed in order to take a clear X-ray.What to expect after a mammogram?If your screening results are normal, you should continue with your monthly breast self-examination and regular mammogram once every two years.*If your results are abnormal and you are asked to go for further tests, do not panic. Out of every 10 women who need further testing, 9 will have normal results. Having to go for further tests does not mean you have breast cancer.*Women aged 40 to 49, who would like to go for breast cancer screening are advised to go for regular mammograms once a year.
- For women 40 to 49 years old – once every year (should you decide to go for screening)
- For women 50 years and older – once every two years
Clinical ExaminationClinical breast examination is done at the clinic and involves a physical examination by a doctor who checks the breasts for lumps and abnormalities. If there are any suspicious findings, the patient will be referred for further tests such as a mammogram, ultrasound, or a biopsy.How To PrepareTell your doctor if you:
You may want to have your examination 1 to 2 weeks after your menstrual period ends, if you are still menstruating; your breasts are less likely to be tender at
- Have a new lump or change in your breasts. This includes a change in the way your nipples look or if you have any nipple discharge
- Some women have nipples that sink into the breast, called inverted nipples. For these women, this is normal. But if you do not have inverted nipples and notice a change where your nipple becomes inverted, tell your doctor
- Have pain in one breast, especially if the pain is not related to having your menstrual period
- Are or might be pregnant
- Are breast-feeding
- Have breast implants
- Have had a breast biopsy
- Have completed menopause
- Are taking hormone therapy
- Have a personal or family history of breast cancer
Dr Lim Siew Kuan is a consultant general surgeon with more than 10 years of surgical experience. Her sub-specialty interest is in breast surgery, and the management of both malignant and benign breast conditions. She did her advanced training in Breast Oncoplastics and Reconstructive Surgery at the National Cancer Center, South Korea. This allows her to provide her patients with better treatment and cosmetic outcomes. Dr Lim is one of the few breast surgeons in Singapore who is trained in oncoplastic and reconstructive breast surgery.