According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, globally, breast cancer now represents one in four of all cancers in women. Since 2008, worldwide breast cancer incidence has increased by more than 20 percent and mortality has increased by 14 percent. It is defined as the abnormal growth of cells and the development of cancerous tumors in the breast that can invade healthy cells. Without the necessary precautions, it can be difficult to detect! But don't worry, breast cancer is curable as long as it is treated at an early stage.
The earlier cancer is detected, the better, which is why Breast Cancer Awareness is important. It can make all the difference in your health & wellness.
What are some symptoms of breast cancer you may notice?
Some symptoms of breast cancer are difficult to notice without a professional screening like a mammogram or an ultrasound. However, we can observe some signs, such as breast lumps, breast cysts, a change in breast shape, dimpling in the skin, a nipple turned inward, or scaly/red/swollen skin on the breast.
What are some of the risk factors associated with breast cancer?
There are some risk factors that may increase the chances of developing breast cancer. While many of these are often out of our control, some are lifestyle-related factors.
- Drinking excess amounts of alcohol
- Early-onset of menstruation
- Genetic mutations
- Chances of getting breast cancer increase after 50 years of age
- Not being physically active
- Having a family history of breast cancer
- Having your first child after the age of 30
- A history of ovarian cancers
- A history of malignant or benign (non-cancerous) breast disease
- Late menopause
- Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
Breast cancer protection through early detection
The best way to protect yourself against breast cancer is giving yourself every opportunity to detect it as early as possible. This includes:
- Doing a monthly breast self-examination
- Going for regular mammograms
- Further testing in case of an abnormal mammogram
How to do a Self-Exam and what to look for
Breast self-examinations can help you to familiarise yourself with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your care provider if there are any changes. The easiest way to give yourself a self-examination is to gently press your breasts while in the shower and observe if you can feel the presence of any lumps or knots:
If you notice any of these changes in your nipple or breast, you should notify your doctor:
- Any discharge
- An unexplained change in the size or shape
- Dimpling or puckering
- Redness or warmth
- Itchy, scaly skin
Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month.
What is a Mammogram
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast done on a specialised machine that allows doctors to detect any abnormal breast conditions before it is visible or detectable by touch. It is recommended that once women reach 40 years of age, they should have a screening mammogram done once a year.
During the process, a radiographer will place your chest 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.
|Age||Breast Self Exam||Mammogram|
|30-39||Once a month (a week after your menses)||-|
|40-49||Once a year|
|50 and above||Once every 2 years|
What happens if your mammogram is abnormal?
If the results of your screening mammogram are abnormal you may be asked to go for further tests or examinations to look at an area of concern more closely. But don't panic! 9 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 doctor may recommend tests, such as:
- A repeat mammogram with extra views
- An ultrasound where sound waves are used to examine the breast tissue
- A biopsy or a small sample of tissue from the suspected breast will be taken
How does APRIL International cover Breast Cancer screening and hospital treatments?
Screening: Prevention is at the core of our outpatient benefits and we believe that early detection is the best way to avoid any major illness, including breast cancer. All MyHEALTH international health insurance plans in Asia come with coverage for health screening, under the “medical checkup” benefit of all Outpatient modules. In Singapore, we cover mammograms (up to SG$300 per year) even if you choose a hospitalisation only plan.
Treatments: When breast cancer is diagnosed by your doctor, APRIL International’s MyHEALTH insurance plans all treatment costs including specialist consultations, diagnostic scans and tests, medicine and drugs, chemotherapy and radiotherapy will be fully covered under your "Hospital and Surgery" module.
However, keep in mind that it is essential that you purchase your health insurance cover before you need it, so you can get the full protection you deserve in cases of major illnesses.
If you'd like to explore coverage options and pricing, you can use our online funnels to build your own plan for you and your family; selecting different benefits and coverage levels for individual families and much more.
How can I Contribute towards Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention in Asia?
There are a number of organisations around the world that raise awareness, engage in research and provide support and preventative screenings to people all over the world. There are also many foundations and charities that provide education, access to screening and support to people here in Asia, and especially those most at risk. If you wish to get involved, whether through volunteering or donating, you may wish to consider some of the organisations below.
Breast Cancer Foundations In Singapore
Breast cancer is a cause supported by many associations in Singapore. The Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) is one of them, a non-profit organization set up in 1997 with the mission to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. You can find out more about the foundation's work and donation opportunities on their website.
Singapore Cancer Society also started a Breast Cancer Campaign in 2019, which you can donate to if you'd like!
Breast Cancer Foundations In Hong Kong
Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation was established in 2005 with the mission to advocate better breast cancer care in Hong Kong, support breast cancer patients and promote public awareness of breast cancer and the importance of breast health.
You can contribute to the cause and get involved in their mission by donating personally, through your corporation or by volunteering.
Breast Cancer Foundations In Indonesia
Indonesian Breast Cancer Foundation / Yayasan Kanker Payudara Indonesia promotes early detection of breast cancer by providing free breast screening to women communities in Jakarta and the surrounding areas. They actively provide education of breast cancer awareness to women communities in a lot of cities, villages throughout Indonesia.
To join in their cause, you can become a member here, which will give you the opportunity to connect globally, forge international partnerships, amplify your voice and have a bigger impact.
Breast Cancer Foundations In The Philippines
The Philippines has a number of foundations that seek to offer breast cancer awareness, support and early detection such as mammograms, pap smears and self examinations, including the Philippines Cancer Society and Kasuso, also known as the Philippine Foundation for Breast Care, Inc.
Breast Cancer Foundations & Charities In Vietnam
Breast Cancer Network Vietnam (BCNV) aims to increase awareness about breast cancer among women and communities by proactively teaching young women and men to detect signs of breast cancer and treat it early on. It also aims to educate and support those experiencing the mental and physical effects of their diagnosis and treatment to improve the quality of life for women with breast cancer and other people affected by breast cancer in Vietnam. You can learn more about their efforts and how you can help here.
Breast Cancer Foundations & Charities In Thailand
The Queen Sirikit Center for Breast Cancer Foundation, under Her royal patronage Queen Sirikit and organized by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kris Chatamra, aims to become a world class breast cancer centre in the heart of Thailand. The main current focus is the optimization of the center into a fully functional cancer facility that can prevent and cure any and all forms of breast cancer.