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Breast Cancer Reviewed by Doctors Reviewed by Dr Lee Wai Peng

What is Breast Cancer

What is breast cancer?

What is breast cancer? It is an uncontrolled division and growth of breast cells, which might sometimes invade surrounding tissue. The growth of the cancer may be very slow in some cases, and faster in other cases. They often start in the ducts while some might start in the milk sacs or lobes.

According to the Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Report 2019, breast cancer is currently the leading form of cancer resulting in death among women in Singapore. Nearly 1 in 13 women in Singapore will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. Women in Singapore between the ages of 40 and 69 years experience the highest rate of breast cancer.

Categories of Breast Cancer

Some breast cancers are “non-invasive”. This is when it is only in the ducts or lobules. If the cancer is in the ducts, it is considered a precancerous condition, whereas cancer found in the lobules is considered a risk factor for invasive cancer.

A breast cancer becomes classified as “invasive” when it spreads to surrounding breast tissue. Invasive cancer is mostly treatable in the early stage when the tumour is still small and has not impacted the lymph nodes.

When the cancer spreads outside the breast to other parts of the body, it is classified as “Metastatic”. Detection of cancer cells in the lymph nodes under the arm is a sign that the cancer may have spread to other lymph nodes and organs.

Breast Self-Examination and Mammography Screening

Women who are asymptomatic and between 40-49 years old are encouraged to do a mammogram on a yearly basis after discussing with their doctor on the benefits and limitations of doing a mammogram.  Whereas women who are asymptomatic and above the age of 50 are recommended to do a mammogram once every 2 years. Women should also perform DIY breast self-examinations monthly from the age of 20.

Find out more about breast cancer screening here.

Consult a Doctor if Signs or Symptoms are Experienced

The signs and symptoms of breast cancer might also be caused by other medical conditions, so patients are advised to consult a doctor for a diagnosis if any of them are detected. As is the case of other forms of cancer, early detection and treatment can save lives.

[Updated 18 Oct 22]

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This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.