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Guide to Performing a Breast Self-Examination

Dr. Derek Koh

Head, Health Screening at Thomson Wellth Clinic

MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (Singapore)

Dr. Derek Koh practises preventive medicine through tailored health screenings & wellness programmes including the management of Andropause, Menopause and Obesity. He is also Board Certified in Anti-Ageing; has attained his Fellowship with the American Board of Anti-Ageing.

Table of Contents

Breast cancer had taken a whopping 685,000 lives globally in 2020 and is one of the world’s most prevalent cancers. Likewise in Singapore, it is the most common cancer affecting women.

Although a family history of breast cancer is a large contributor to one’s higher risk, the condition can also develop in women who have no identifiable risk other than age and gender. Thus, to give yourself peace of mind, going for regular breast cancer screening in Singapore is important.

Currently, a mammogram screening is the most effective breast cancer screening tool but it is only recommended for women above 40 years of age. If you are younger, doing a breast self-examination is your next best bet – they are quick and fuss-free but can also help you to detect abnormalities in your breasts early.

This guide to the who, when and how of breast self-examination will give you a clearer idea of the entire process – keep reading to find out more.

Who?

Self-examination is a screening method used to detect breast cancer, for women to look out for symptoms or abnormalities so that they can seek medical advice and treatment early.

You should start performing a breast self-examination from 30 years old and all the way into the golden years of your life, as old age is one of the risk factors.

When?

While the frequency of a mammogram screening is set at once a year or once every two years depending on your age, breast self-examinations can be done in the comfort of your own home once every month.

The optimum time to perform a self-examination is seven to 10 days after the start of menses, when the breasts are least tender, sore and lumpy during this time of your monthly cycle.

How?

breast cancer screening self-examinations

Breast self-examinations will only take you a few minutes each time, but keep in mind to never rush through the process. A few simple steps are all you need to do to ensure you are performing this breast cancer screening method correctly.

  • Observe: Put your hands on your hips or raise your arms above your head and observe your breasts – look out for any changes in breast shape, the nipples and skin surface.

  • Touch: Use your middle three fingers to touch and feel your breasts, moving in a circular motion from the outer area towards the nipples; squeeze your nipples gently to check for any discharge too.

  • Examine: Apply different pressures to your breasts from your armpits to your cleavage with your fingers to check for lumps.

These steps can be performed in front of a mirror, in the shower or while lying down on the bed. Make sure to pay attention to signs like dimpling of the skin, an inverted nipple and redness or swelling.

What happens next?

No symptoms were detected

If you do not see or feel any symptoms, you may continue to perform a breast self-examination every month for greater assurance.

It is also essential to keep up with your yearly or biennial mammogram screenings if you are 40 years of age or older.

Symptoms were detected

If you are too young for a mammogram screening but noticed abnormal breast changes, it is advisable that you speak to a doctor. Your doctor will perform a breast examination on you and make use of an ultrasound or MRI to detect signs of cancer.

Otherwise, schedule a mammogram screening as soon as possible. If abnormalities were detected, a biopsy may be needed to check if there is a presence of cancerous cells.

Learn more: How Mammogram Screening for Breast Cancer Saves Lives

Where to go for breast cancer screening in Singapore?

Where to go for breast cancer screening in Singapore

Thomson Wellth Clinic offers a range of female health screening packages in Singapore that are tailored to women’s health needs.

Consider The Pink of Health Screening Package, which screens for common cancers including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer. It is suitable for all women above 30 years of age but if you are above 40, it is recommended that you top up with a mammogram screening for a more comprehensive check.

Get in touch with us to find out more!

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