Know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to breast cancer? Here, Singapore doctors discuss four of the most common misconceptions – including breast cancer symptoms and screening.
Myth: Breast cancers are always in the form of a lump.
Truth: Breast cancer symptoms are quite variable,” says breast surgeon DR GEORGETTE CHAN.
“The most common symptom is a painless lump in the breast, but breast cancer can also present itself as persistent breast swelling, continual skin thickening or dimpling, or new lumps in the armpit. Patients should also pay attention to nipple changes such as a new onset of nipple retraction, persistent rash over the nipple or bloody discharge from the nipple.”
Myth: You don’t need mammograms if you lead a healthy lifestyle.
Truth: “Mammograms are still essential for breast health, no matter what,” says Dr Chan. “While it’s true that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 10 to 20 percent, patients who lead healthy lifestyles can still develop the disease.”
A screening mammogram or ultrasound, she says, can detect cancer in the breast even before the tumour can be felt or cause any symptoms. An early diagnosis can reduce the need for major surgery, and hopefully avoid the need for chemotherapy as well.
“It’s recommended that women aged from 40 to 49 go for annual screening mammograms and, after turning 50, a mammogram once every two years.”
Dr Georgette Chan
#11-09 Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre,
3 Mount Elizabeth
6836 5167 | georgettechan.com.sg
Myth: Only older women get breast cancer.
Truth: Women who are under the age of around 40 may feel that they’re not at risk for breast cancer, but five percent of all cases happen in this younger age group, explains DR NAV UPPAL, a GP at International Medical Clinic (IMC). In fact, diagnosis can be more difficult due to breast tissue density, and breast cancer in younger women may be more aggressive and less likely to respond to treatments.
“Younger women may ignore warning signs because they believe they are too young to get breast cancer. However, women should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast cancer. In general, mammograms are not recommended for women under 40. But, for women with genetic mutations, screening can begin much earlier.”
Myth: Only women get breast cancer.
Truth: “Breast cancer is most often found in women, but men can get breast cancer, too,” says Dr Uppal. “About one out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man.” Because it’s so rare, she says a man may not pay attention to the symptoms until the cancer has grown. Symptoms to watch for include a painless lump or swelling in the breast or armpit, and any changes in the skin of your breast or nipple such as redness, puckering, scales or discharge.
“These symptoms can occur with other conditions that are not cancer,” says Dr Uppal. “But, if you have any symptoms that worry you, see your doctor straight away.”
International Medical Clinic
IMC Camden, IMC Children’s, IMC Jelita and IMC Katong
6733 4440 | imc-healthcare.com
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