Breast cancer may occur in various age groups, but its incidence increases in older women. Indeed, it is the leading cancer among females in Singapore, with 1 in 13 developing the condition in their lifetime. Although early detection and treatment is possible, there are still many women who have late-stage breast cancer. Here, we debunk some of the common misconceptions about the disease, and encourage women to take charge of their breast health.
“Breast cancer usually presents as painful lumps.”
Whether they are cancerous or benign, lumps in the breasts are usually painless. Hence, all lumps should be evaluated by a doctor. Less common symptoms may include nipple rash, abnormal nipple discharge, skin changes, breast dimpling or even a newly-retracted nipple. Performing regular breast self-examinations will help you familiarise yourself and detect any early changes to your breast.
“I am only 40 years old and too young to get breast cancer.”
In Singapore, breast cancer incidence increases from 40 years onwards. One is advised to start mammogram screenings from the age of 40, even when one has no symptoms.
“Since no one in my family has breast cancer, I will not get it either.”
Only about 15% of breast cancer incidences are inherited. The majority of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
“Having breast cancer means losing my breast!”
Surgical removal of the whole breast (mastectomy) is not always the necessary course of treatment. When the cancer is detected early, only the area with the malignant tumour needs to be removed, thus preserving the rest of the breast.
“Bras, deodorants or physical injury to the breast can cause breast cancer.”
There is no scientific evidence for any of this.
“Breast cancer is a death sentence!”
When breast cancer is detected at its earliest stage, there is a five-year survival rate of 99%. Therefore, increased awareness of your own breast health and regular mammogram screenings will help with early detection.
“Radiation from mammograms causes breast cancer.”
The amount of radiation is minimal and does not cause the development of breast cancer. In fact, mammograms have been shown to be the most effective way of detecting the disease in its early stages.
If you have any concerns about your breast health, please see a healthcare professional for a more in-depth consultation.
CGH’s Breast Centre offers one-stop comprehensive breast service for breast cancer screening, assessment, diagnosis and treatment of all breast conditions.
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