Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Singaporean women. All women are at risk of breast cancer, and the chances of developing it increase with age.

All women are at risk of breast cancer, and the chances of developing breast cancer increase with age. Your risk increases if:

  • You are 50 years of age or older; and/or
  • Your mother, sister or daughter has had breast cancer


The good news is, early detection can increase your chances of survival. Hence, every woman aged 50 and above should be screened regularly for breast cancer.

Understanding Breast Cancer 

Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast tissues. As with most cancers, the exact cause is not known. Experts believe that it may be due to genetic and environmental factors. 


Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

The chances of getting breast cancer increase with age. Other risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Having a family history of breast cancer
  • A history of malignant or benign (non-cancerous) breast disease
  • A history of ovarian cancers
  • Early onset of menstruation
  • Late menopause
  • Having your first child after the age of 30
  • Having fewer children or never having children
  • Being on hormone replacement therapy
  • Weight gain, especially after the menopause
  • Drinking alcohol

However, the absence of these risk factors does not mean protection against breast cancer. Regular screening, including performing regular breast self-examinations, is important for the early detection of breast cancer..

Signs of Breast Cancer

Early breast cancer usually does not have any symptoms. This is why regular mammograms are important. If you experience any of the symptoms described below, please see your doctor immediately.



Stages of Breast Cancer 

There are five stages of breast cancer: 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4. At the earlier stages (0 and 1), treatment can result in survival rates of over 90 percent.  

Protect Yourself from Breast Cancer 

The best way to protect yourself from breast cancer is to go for regular mammograms. Doing a monthly breast self-examination also keeps you aware of any changes to your breasts.



Go for a mammogram every two years; during the process, a female radiographer will put your breast between two flat plastic plates and compress for a few seconds. This is performed on one breast at a time. Some discomfort may be experienced but it is important for the breast tissue to be compressed in order to capture a clear X-ray.

Do also practise a monthly breast self-examination for early breast cancer detection:



In addition, you can also make changes to your lifestyle:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in fats
  • Take less than one alcoholic drink a day or avoid alcohol completely

Download our pamphlet on Breast Cancer screening for more information 

(English included in all):

Chinese | Malay | Tamil 

Further Testing for Breast Cancer

Even if your mammogram results are normal, you should still continue with your monthly breast self-examination and regular mammogram once every two years for early breast cancer detection. 

If your results are abnormal and you are asked to go for further tests, do not panic. Nine out of every 10 women who need further tests will have normal results. Having to go for further tests does not mean you have breast cancer.

The test(s) you need will depend on your mammogram result. The doctor will recommend suitable tests for you, such as:

  • A repeat mammogram where different views of the breasts are taken
  • An ultrasound where sound waves are used to examine the breast tissue
  • A biopsy, where a small sample of tissue from the suspected breast will be taken


Related: Screen for Cancer Before It's Too Late

Breast Cancer Treatment 

If breast cancer is confirmed after further tests, treatment options will depend on the following:

  • Stage of breast cancer (whether early or late)
  • Types of cancer cells
  • Age and general health of the individual


Early-stage breast cancer may require only surgery while late-stage breast cancer often will require a combination of the following treatment options:

  • Breast surgery
  • Radiation therapy: this uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours
  • Chemotherapy: this uses drugs to destroy cancer cells
  • Hormone therapy: this uses anti-oestrogen therapy (such as Tamoxifen) or an aromatase inhibitor (such as Anastrozole) to stop hormone-responsive cancer cells from growing


Related: Breast Cancer — Diagnosis to Treatment 

For more information about your recommended breast cancer screenings, visit the Screen for Life page.

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