Breast Screening

Breast screening plays a vital role in women’s health care, primarily because it enables the early detection of breast cancer, which is crucial for effective treatment and improved outcomes. Here are key points highlighting the importance of breast screening:

Early Detection Saves Lives
  • Improved Outcomes: Detecting breast cancer early often means that the disease is still in a localised stage, making it more treatable and increasing the chances of survival. Early detection can significantly reduce the rate of mortality from breast cancer.
  • Smaller Treatment Regimens: When breast cancer is caught early, treatment can often be less aggressive, which might reduce the need for extensive surgeries like mastectomies and may minimise the duration or intensity of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Screening Methods
  • Mammograms: The most common and effective method for breast cancer screening, mammograms can detect tumors before they are palpable or symptoms appear. They can also identify other breast abnormalities that may require further investigation.
  • MRI and Ultrasound: For women at high risk of breast cancer or those with dense breast tissue, additional screening methods like MRI or ultrasound may be recommended alongside mammograms for better accuracy.
Guideline Recommendations
  • Age-Specific Guidelines: Various health organizations provide guidelines for when and how often women should undergo screening. These typically start from the age of 40 or 50 for average-risk women, with recommendations to continue regularly until at least age 70.
  • Personalised Screening Plans: For those at higher risk (due to family history, genetic factors, or other reasons), earlier and more frequent screening may be advisable. It’s important for each individual to discuss their risk factors and screening schedule with a healthcare provider.
Breast Screening and Risk Reduction
  • Educational Value: Screening programs often provide education on breast health, further encouraging women to be proactive about their health through regular self-examinations and awareness of changes in their breasts.
  • Prevention and Risk Reduction: In some cases, screening may identify non-cancerous conditions or risk factors that could be managed or mitigated to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Conclusion

Breast screening is a cornerstone of preventive health care for women, offering significant benefits in terms of early detection and treatment of breast cancer. By following established guidelines and consulting with healthcare professionals, women can make informed decisions about their breast health, contributing to better outcomes and quality of life in the face of breast cancer risk.

  • Frequently Asked Questions
In Singapore, the breast screening starts at the age of 40 with yearly mammograms until the age of 50. After the age of 50, mammograms are done once every two years until the age of 70. If you are under the age of 40 and have a family history of breast cancer, you may consider having a yearly breast ultrasound.
Breast ultrasound is not routinely required for breast screening. However, breast ultrasound can be useful in detecting small lumps, some of which can be cancerous, which may not be picked up on mammograms because of dense breast. Breast ultrasound can be useful in ladies who have dense breasts on mammograms.

Breast screening is not the be all and end all in detecting breast cancer early. This is because the faster growing cancers can develop in a matter of weeks between breast screenings. Therefore, a monthly self-breast examination is equally important in the early detection of breast cancer.

If you are not sure what to do, I can show you how in clinic. Here is a good link to a cartoon by Breast Cancer Foundation.

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