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Breast Cancer: Early Warning Signs

Breast cancer is the #1 cancer affecting Singaporean women today, but it is also very treatable if caught early. In fact, it has one of the highest overall survival rates at 90%. The key lies in early detection. Aside from having timely breast screening exams (mammograms), breast cancer can be detected through breast self-exams and by simply being on the lookout for any visual or palpable changes in the breasts.

What’s Normal?

Breasts come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and symmetries—all of which are unique and healthy. The same is true for the nipples and areolas. Breasts can also have different textures: Some are dense while others are fatty. They can even feel lumpy, especially right before periods. Breast changes are also normal depending on the changes that a woman’s body experiences, including puberty, pregnancy and menopause.

The reality is that no two breasts are exactly the same. This is the reason why self-exams are important. They allow you to be familiar with the appearance and texture of your breasts, and allowing you to promptly detect any abnormalities. If any noticeable lump or significant change is found, you should immediately see a doctor to determine its nature and embark on a breast cancer treatment while in the early stages. Find out how a breast doctor diagnoses a patient.

What Should I Do if I Have Lumps?

A lump is the most common symptom of breast cancer, but don’t panic – up to 90% of breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous). As mentioned earlier, breasts may feel lumpy during menstrual periods due to hormone changes but should return to normal afterward. Find out the difference between a breast cyst from breast cancer.

Other causes of breast lumps are cysts, lipomas and fibroadenomas, all of which are benign and may be left to resolve on their own. Breast infection and fat necrosis may cause lumps as well, but these will require immediate medical treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer typically does not show obvious symptoms during its early stages, which is why getting regular mammograms is important.

Aside from seeing or feeling a painless lump on the breast, other symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • nipple bleeding or unusual nipple discharge
  • dimpling or puckering of the skin of the breast
  • redness or swelling of the breast
  • pain and tenderness of the breast
  • inverted or retracted nipple
  • itching or rashes around the nipple
  • lump or swelling in the armpit (lymph nodes)

Make sure to go to a breast clinic immediately if any of these symptoms are present.

What Are the Risk Factors of Breast Cancer?

There are modifiable and non-modifiable factors that can put you at risk of developing breast cancer.

Modifiable risks include:

  • being obese or overweight due to an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle
  • drinking alcohol excessively
  • taking certain hormone therapy medications
  • taking certain oral contraceptives
  • getting pregnant at an older age or never having gotten pregnant at all

Non-modifiable risks, on the other hand, are as follows:

  • being female (yes – men can have breast cancer, too!)
  • older age (50 years old and above)
  • inheriting BRCA1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations that put one at a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers
  • personal or family history of breast cancer
  • having first menstrual period before 12 years old and entering menopause after 55 years old
  • having received previous radiation therapy treatments
  • having dense breasts

A breast surgeon in Singapore can help determine whether you are at risk of developing cancer.

With early detection, breast cancer is very much treatable. For an appointment with Dr Chong Chee Keong or learn more about breast cancer, please reach us at 63555285.

“From Diagnosis to Recovery, We're with You Every Step”

For appointments and enquiries, contact us via form below or call us at (+65) 6355 5285


Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre

38 Irrawaddy Road #06-33,Singapore 329563

Parkway East Medical Centre

319 Joo Chiat Place #02-05,Singapore 427989

Farrer Park Medical Centre

1 Farrer Park Station Rd #15-13,Singapore 217562

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Saturday: 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays