Never had a breast check? You should probably schedule one soon. Because according to Dr Felicia Tan from FeM Surgery @ Macpherson, women should get their breasts checked every year once they turn 20.
“If you’re under 40, a breast check involves a breast examination by a doctor and a breast ultrasound,” she says. Women above 40 are usually recommended to do both a breast ultrasound and mammogram.
But you don’t necessarily have to go to a doctor to do a breast examination—you can also DIY. It really doesn’t matter who carries it out as long as you get them checked.
“A survey done by Breast Cancer Foundation in 2017 found that 27 percent of women have not done a breast examination on their own or by a doctor,” says Dr Tan. “It is crucial that women start doing self-examinations early.”
Why so important?
Conducting a breast check regularly allows you to detect lumps and other abnormalities early.
“A lump in the breast could be caused by a tumour, whether cancerous or benign; a cyst, which means there’s fluid in the breast; an infection, which involves abscess; or an area of thickened breast tissue,” says Dr Tan.
But this doesn’t mean all lumps are life-threatening. In fact, most of them are harmless.
“Majority of breast lumps felt by women are benign. However, all breast lumps should be fully assessed by a breast specialist before coming to the conclusion that it’s benign,” she says.
A common cancer
This is because breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore and can happen to women of any age—so it’s always best to seek a professional opinion before dismissing any lumps.
“According to statistics released by the Singapore Cancer Society, breast cancer affects one in 11 women here in their lifetime,” says Dr Tan. She adds that women who detect breast cancer in the earlier stages have a higher survival rate, at about 81 percent, as compared to women with breast cancer in the later stages.
If you’re wondering, breast cancer isn’t preventable, but early detection through screening programmes can make it potentially curable. Get that check done asap already.