Breast checks, mammograms and breast cancer screenings are on our mind in light of it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But really, we need these important topics to be on our minds ALL of the time...
October has got us feeling pink, giving some serious thought to our ‘breast friends’. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month officially here, this subject is at the forefront of our thoughts… more than 1,000 new cases of this most-evil-of-diseases are diagnosed in Singapore alone each year. If you caught Helen’s story and her journey from diagnosis to recovery, you’ll already know that the earlier it’s detected, the better the chances of kicking cancer’s ass into orbit are. As such, we thought it’s about time we put together a useful list of where to get screenings, mammograms and ultrasounds in Singapore. Plus, some guidelines on what you should be looking for when doing your own regular breast checks at home.
How to check your breasts
Make it a priority to check your breasts once a month for any changes or lumps. While breast cancer can’t be prevented, detecting it early can make all the difference. Follow these easy guidelines for your own self-checks, but if you’re unsure, do consult your GP. They will be only too happy to show you how to carry out the checks for yourself.
1. Check your breasts in the shower
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the centre, checking the entire breast and armpit area.
2. Check your breasts in front of a mirror
“Hello, you!” – give your breasts a really good visual inspection while keeping your arms at your sides. Repeat with your arms raised overhead. Keep an eye out for any changes in the contour of your breasts, any swelling, dimpling of the skin or changes in your nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and flex your chest muscles. Again check for dimpling, puckering, or changes, especially on one side.
3. Check your breasts lying down
Finally take the weight off your feet (not always easy as a mum, we get it) and lie down: the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall when in this position. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head, and then using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure and don’t forget to give your nipple a little squeeze to check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Make it a habit to do these checks for each breast every month. If you feel a lump, thickening, dimpling (kind of like orange peel) or maybe even a hardened knot, speak to a GP.
Breast cancer screening in Singapore
1. Where to get a mammogram
We are so fortunate to live in a country where breast screening is readily available. To encourage women in Singapore to start screening regularly, the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) runs a number of mammogram screening programmes.
- If you’re part of the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), women aged 50-69 years will receive mammograms at no charge at the SCS Clinic @ Bishan.
- Women aged 40-69 years old without a CHAS card should check out the Community Mammobus Programme where Singaporeans will pay between $0 and $10 for screening. PRs pay $25-$35 for screening and foreigners will pay $107 (but will need a referral letter from a GP). All aboard the Mammobus, people!
- There’s also the Mammogram Funding Assistance, where you’ll receive $25 funding assistance for mammogram screening.
There are also a few private centres around Singapore offering mammograms and breast screenings. If you have medical insurance, do check to see whether you may be covered for these tests. You can either make an appointment directly or get a referral through a GP (which would usually be the case if you’re claiming on insurance):
- Orchard Imaging Centre (OIC) is located on Orchard Road and you can make your appointments online.
- Head over to Mammo-Care Singapore where you can book appointments (Monday to Saturday) online for consults and mammograms.
- You can also get a mammogram in one of the major hospitals in Singapore. Speak to your GP who will be able to advise on the best and most accessible option for you.
2. Where to get a breast ultrasound
A breast ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create a black and white image of breast tissues and structures. Doctors suggest assessing the size and shape of any breast lumps you may have detected. The ultrasound can often determine whether the abnormalities are potentially more serious than just innocuous breast cysts. In most instances, your GP will arrange an appointment for you. However, if you want to arrange your own ultrasound, these clinics can help:
- C K Yong Surgery & Breast Clinic is a one-stop specialist breast centre located in the Thomson Road area. Call 6356 3250 to make your appointment.
- The Breast Clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital has a fleet of doctors specialising in breast care. Call ahead to make your appointment or book via its online appointment system.
- Maven Surgery is headed by a breast surgeon with over 20 years of experience. Call 6355 5285 for enquiries.
- Esther Chuwa BreastCare provides comprehensive breast cancer services. Call 6479 2110 to make an appointment.
So there you have it: now you know how to check your breasts and where to go for breast cancer screening in Singapore. Don’t forget to always consult a doctor if you’re concerned or need some expert guidance on how to carry out your own checks.
You’ve got this, ladies.