Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in Singapore. More than 25% of all cancers diagnosed in women are breast cancers. Over 1,800 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Singapore each year from 2010 – 2014.
Like most cancers, breast cancer arises from a cancerous (malignant) tumour. This occurs when breast cells become abnormal and divide without control or order.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Most women that are diagnosed with breast cancer are 40 years and above. Men can get breast cancer too, however, it is rare with less than 1% of all breast cancers occurring in men.
5 to 10% of all breast cancers are associated with genetic factors, like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes are associated with breast cancer occurring in 50% of families that have a history of breast or ovarian cancer.
The risk of breast cancer also increases with:
The length of a women’s fertile period. The longer a woman is fertile, the higher the chance of developing cancer.
The age of when a woman first gave birth. Women who have their first child below the age of 30 have a lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The risk increases for women who have children later or remain childless
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a breast lump. Other symptoms include an indrawn or bleeding nipple, swelling of the breast, discharge from the nipple and enlarged lymph glands in the armpit.
A mammogram and a biopsy are necessary when a suspicious breast lump is present. Once cancer is diagnosed, other tests may be required to determine the stage of cancer and if it has spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery is the usual initial treatment of breast cancer. If the breast cannot be preserved, a mastectomy is required. To treat the remaining cancer cells in the remaining breast tissue and to prevent cancer from reoccurring, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are used post-surgery.
Incorporated in 2005, Singapore Medical Group (SMG) is a private specialist and primary healthcare provider with a network of more than 20 medical specialties. The Group is committed to its promise of providing patient centred medical care and experience to every individual. SMG has 35 clinics and a growing network of SMG Associates all across the island.