When was the last time you paid attention to your boobs, besides slathering body foam on them in the shower? By paying attention, we mean knowing the texture, shape and appearance of your breasts and nipples during different times of the month, at different stages of your life -- starting from 20. And this breast self-awareness should continue throughout your lifetime.
When your period is near or if you’re pregnant, for instance, your boobs may feel more sore and tender than usual. If you are breastfeeding, you may encounter small lumps which are usually caused by clogged ducts. After hitting 40, you may notice your breasts shrink, soften and become saggier. Abnormal growths like cysts may even appear.
You may not think much about your boobs. After all, they’re covered up most of the time, and breasts don’t typically come up in conversations – other than, perhaps, in yearly chats with our gynaes and Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
But here’s why your breasts deserve more attention and airtime: Every year, more than 2,000 women in Singapore are diagnosed with breast cancer, and it’s the leading cause of death for women, according to the National Registry of Diseases Office Singapore, Singapore Cancer Registry 50th Anniversary Monograph 2019. Of those affected, about 20 per cent die from it.
The good news is, breast cancer is very much treatable. The earlier it’s discovered, the better the outcome. Dr Rebecca Dent, head and senior consultant of medical oncology at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, said in a recently published paper Take Charge of Your Breast Health – Journeys of Young Women with Breast Cancer in Singapore: “Access to breast cancer screening and treatment has improved greatly across the years. Now, we are much better at identifying which treatment is right for the patient. Targeted therapies have also improved outcomes for both early and advanced breast cancer.” The key to early discovery? Regular breast checks.
Yes, we are talking about breast self-examination (BSE) and mammogram, which have long been advocated by healthcare bodies such as the Health Promotion Board and Breast Cancer Foundation, a charity organisation that aims to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease.
Refresher: The BSE is a three-step routine (refer to the illustrations here) that can be done in three minutes, while the mammogram involves compression and an X-ray capture of your breasts to detect tumours and abnormalities. All women aged 20 and above should do their BSE monthly. In addition, those aged 40 to 50 should go for mammograms yearly, while those above 50 should go for mammograms once every two years.
Doing BSEs and going for mammograms are vital to your health and well-being. However, according to the Breast Cancer Foundation, two in five women don’t do regular breast checks.
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