Ask The Expert: Why Is Breast Cancer Screening REALLY Necessary?

The earliest signs of breast cancer are often not noticeable by the affected person.
07 January 2019

Breast cancer affects individuals with and without significant risk factors.

In Singapore, it is the number one cause of cancer deaths among women. A breast cancer screening, or mammography, aims to detect disease in otherwise healthy individuals who do not have any symptoms. When breast cancer is detected early, there are more options for treatment available and the chance of a successful treatment is higher. Though there is a small dose of radiation to the breasts during mammography, the benefits of early cancer detection far outweigh any potential harm that can result.

What are the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

In general, the earliest signs of breast cancer are often not noticeable by the affected person – the affected breast can look the same before and after diagnosis. These early signs are microcalcifications (which produce no symptoms), a small mass (which is often not big enough to be felt) and areas of distortion seen on imaging. Other signs may include nipple discharges or rashes that affect the nipple and areola. As the cancer progresses, the patient may notice a distinct hard mass in the breast or under the armpit that is usually painless, enlarging areas of skin redness; obvious areas of skin thickening or swelling with an orange-peel appearance; a new nipple inversion; change in the breast shape or size; new nodules or ulcers appearing on the skin; and/or increasing pain or heaviness in the affected breast.

What can I expect during a consultation?

At our clinic, the doctor will have a chat with the patient first so that he or she can find out more details about the individual’s concern, as well as his or her overall health history and family history of cancer, if any. Then, the doctor will examine both breasts and the armpits entirely. A baseline ultrasound of the breasts will be performed at the clinic. Additional tests may be recommended for further evaluation of an abnormality. Finally, a diagnosis and treatment plan will be discussed.

What if I’m “too shy” to go for a breast cancer screening?

Embarrassment is one of the reasons for the delay in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. The delay can adversely affect the outcome of the cancer treatment. It is important to remind yourself that the people you face in the course of having a mammogram and ultrasound performed (e.g., technicians, sonographers and doctors) are professionals. They are there to perform the scans to the highest standards, so that any abnormalities can be captured and correctly interpreted. You can be rest assured that the patients’ modesty is respected.

THE EXPERT, Breast Oncoplastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Dr. Jendana Chanyaputhipong

PanAsia Surgery Group is a multi-specialty surgical practice that provides personalised, comprehensive care for a full range of emergency and elective surgical problems. Its doctors offer solutions that said to be minimally invasive and use the latest technological advances. The group has three clinics at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre (Orchard and Novena) and Parkway East Medical Centre, both of which are premier acute care general hospitals in the Parkway Hospitals Singapore group.

Locations: Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre • Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre • Parkway East Hospital

From The Finder (Issue 296) , January 2019

Like this? Find more health and wellness articles here, or download our digital magazine from the App Store Google Play or Magzter.

More on The Finder:

8 Things You Should Know About Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 5 Facts You Need to Know
TCM to Treat Cancer: All You Need To Know

Don’t miss out! Like our Facebook page for event updates and more!