Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis among women in Singapore, accounting for 29.7% of cases between 2017 and 2021. It occurs when the cells in your breast start to grow uncontrollably and while breast cancer predominantly affects women, it’s not exclusive to them—men are also susceptible.
The importance of early detection cannot be stressed enough, as it is pivotal for improving curative rates and optimising treatment outcomes. In honour of October, which marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we urge you to take proactive steps to understand the condition and learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Unpacking the causes of breast cancer
A good place to begin is by understanding your risk factors. Like most cancers, the specific root causes of breast cancer are unknown. However, identifying what increases the likelihood of its onset can guide you in making informed decisions about your health. Generally, here are the common risk factors for breast cancer:
As with many health conditions, the risk of breast cancer typically increases with age, with most cases diagnosed in women above 50.
Women with obesity also have a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Hence, regular physical activity and a healthy diet is advised to help lower this risk.
3. Reproductive factors
Besides age and weight, prolonged exposure to oestrogen is another factor that elevates the risk of breast cancer. Such exposure can arise from circumstances including the following:
- When your menstruation starts before 12 years old.
- When you enter menopause after the age of 55.
- When you delay childbirth until after the age of 30 or if you have not had a full-term pregnancy.
4. Family history and genetics
In Singapore, a woman’s average risk of breast cancer stands at 5%. However, a family history of the condition can potentially double this rate. Meanwhile, women who have inherited specific genetic mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2 also face a heightened risk for breast cancer.
How to prevent breast cancer?
1. Breast cancer screening
With early detection before breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, there is a 99% chance of survival over five years, as shared by the American Cancer Society. As such, it is wise to schedule a customised women’s health screening to check for abnormalities, even if you may not have the above mentioned risk factors.
2. Familiarising with the signs of breast cancer
Besides proactive screening, becoming more familiar with the look and feel of your breasts can help you notice the warning signs of cancer and seek appropriate intervention early. You can conduct such monthly self-examinations after your menstrual cycle ends by using your fingers to apply varying pressures on both breasts, the underarm area and your nipples. When examining your breasts, be vigilant for symptoms such as:
- Presence of lumps or masses.
- General breast swelling.
- Changes in skin texture, like dimpling or redness.
- Nipples turning inward or retracting.
- Unexpected nipple discharge, especially if it’s blood tinged.
Even if you do not pick up on anything unusual during your self-inspection, it is recommended that you schedule a regular breast check and mammogram. Should you observe any anomalies, promptly seek advice from a trusted medical clinic for an in-depth assessment and any required treatment. We have trusted relationships with the best breast cancer specialists in Singapore. By adopting a combination of preventive and proactive measures, you can enhance the health of your breasts and overall well-being.