Every year in October, Singapore marks breast cancer awareness month. During this month there is a national campaign that includes many activities to help increase awareness about breast cancer. On average, more than 650,000 women die worldwide due to breast cancer. It is important to create awareness about this deadly disease to prevent deaths.
Breast cancer in men is also possible and it is not just women who suffer from this disease. Spreading awareness ensures people are aware of this disease and its symptoms. This will allow for early detection of the disease, which in turn can help in successful treatment.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a form of cancer that occurs in the breast cells. Like in other parts of the body, cells keep dying and growing. In some people, their genes can have mutations that can lead to uncontrolled growth of cells. These cells are known as cancer cells and such growth is referred to as a tumour that can appear as a lump.
Cancer soon spreads to the lymph nodes and from there can spread to different parts of the body. If treated early, cancer can be cured. If not, cancer can affect the working of various organs in the body. This can lead to a person’s death. Many years back, a breast cancer diagnosis was feared since it meant death.
But today, thanks to advances in medical technology breast cancer can be treated. On average, the 5-year survival rate of breast cancer is 90.6%. This depends on how soon the cancer is detected. It is important to be aware of this cancer, its symptoms, and how to detect it. This information can help save a person’s life.
Types of breast cancer
There are different types of breast cancer. The breast cancer types include:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ: Here, the cancer is within the ducts of the breast and has not spread to other areas.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ: In this type, the cancer is in the glands that produce milk. In situ indicates the cancer is noninvasive and has not spread to other parts.
- Invasive ductal carcinoma: Here, cancer that starts in the ducts spread to other tissues in the breast. From there, it can spread to other organs.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma: Cancer that develops in the lobules would spread to other tissues.
- Angiosarcoma: It is cancer occurring in the blood vessels in the breast.
- Inflammatory breast cancer: This is a rare type that causes the breasts to swell. It is aggressive cancer that can spread very fast.
- Triple-negative breast cancer: This breast cancer type is also rare and has three criteria. It lacks estrogen receptors, and progesterone receptors, and doesn’t have HER2 proteins. This cancer is not so easy to treat.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
Every woman must be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. This information will help them detect cancer at an early stage. Some of the key breast cancer symptoms include:
- A lump of thickening in any part of the breast that is new. This is a key sign and self-examination of the breast can help detect such lumps early.
- Pain in the breast.
- Swelling in part of the breast or the entire area.
- A discharge from the nipple that could even be blood.
- Discolouration or pitted skin on the breast.
- Peeling or flaking of skin on the nipple.
- Nipple becoming inverted.
- A swelling or lump under the arm.
It must be noted these signs do not mean you have breast cancer. They are common symptoms and must be investigated.
Risk factors of breast cancer
It is important to understand breast cancer's causes. One possibility is inherited because of gene mutations being passed through different generations. Other risk factors can cause breast cancer. The different risk factors are:
- Women above 55 are more at risk.
- The use of alcohol can increase the risk.
- Women who get their periods before the age of 12 are more at risk.
- BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Women whose breast tissues are thick are more at risk and also detecting breast cancer becomes difficult.
- Anyone with a family history of breast cancer is at risk.
- Those who have never been pregnant or had their first child after 30 have a higher risk.
- Obesity is another risk factor.
Activities in Singapore for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
1) Fit & Fab with NCIS
NCIS, the National University Cancer Institute of Singapore organizes the Fit & Fab event to focus on fitness. The program aims to highlight the importance of being fit to prevent breast cancer. The program invites people to dress in pink and join for virtual workouts where they can practice fitness routines from the comfort of their homes.
A series of events are planned for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 2022. The virtual workouts are open to all. Some of the activities planned include Hatha Yoga, Zumba, and K-Kardio Dance. The virtual workouts would be held from 6:30 in the evening to 7:30 in the evening on all days of October. There are no fees and no registration for this event.
2) Breast Cancer Awareness Webinars
The best way to prevent breast cancer is by knowing all about it. Every woman needs to understand what breast cancer is and why they should know about it. To highlight this, NCIS is organising a series of seminars during October. The programs are conducted online and are open to all who register for the events. All webinars are conducted by specialists.
The webinars create awareness by explaining the symptoms and also showing breast cancer pictures, so women know what it would look like. The webinars also explain the various breast cancer stages and treatment options available. Stories of survivors are featured in these webinars to help understand that breast cancer can be defeated.
3) Breast Screening on Mammobus
Breast screening is vital in the fight against breast cancer. Apart from self-examination, women need to get screened for breast cancer. This is important since breast cancer need not manifest as a lump. The only way to detect it for sure is by a mammogram. The Mammobus initiative allows women who are 40+ to get screened for breast cancer. The screening is from 29th October to 4th November.
The timings are 9 am to 4:20 pm at the Jurong Medical Centre. Those interested should take an appointment. It is free for first-time screeners. When you go to get the breast screening done, make sure you wear a surgical mask Singapore to protect yourself against COVID and any other virus around.
4) NCIS $10 Funding Assistance for Mammogram Screening
This initiative highlights the importance given to mammogram screening since it helps to detect breast cancer. The HBP screen for life programme offers mammograms for women. To encourage women to get screened, NCIS is offering additional funding of $10. This is apart from any other funding assistance being offered.
The offer is open through October and November. The screening programs are being held at various NUHS diagnostic centres. This program is open for the first 500 registrations on a first come first served basis. Register today to get the screening done. Do verify the eligibility criteria before registering.
5) Contribute to the NCIS Cancer Fund for BCAM 2022
NCIS has tied up with partner institutions to raise money for their cancer fund. Bakeries, floral service providers, baking training institutes, and cake shops are part of this initiative. The partners would be creating special pink creations on the occasion of Breast Cancer Month. When you buy their products, a part of the proceeds goes to the cancer fund.
This is a worthy cause and you can do your bit to support the fight against cancer. Buy and enjoy delicious foods or join a workshop knowing that your money is going to be used for a good cause.
6) NCIS Instagram Giveaway Contest
A giveaway contest is being organised on Instagram by NCIS. Fashion, lingerie, and F&B brands are part of this. There are different contests, details of which are available on NCIS’ Insta page. A total of 27 prizes (gift vouchers) can be won.
All details can be found on the BCAM 2022 page and on NCIS’ Insta page. Do go through the terms before registering and get a chance to win a prize. NCIS is organising this event to promote breast cancer awareness.
Risk reduction for breast cancer
The risk factors for breast cancer were discussed earlier in this guide. If you have any of these risk factors then you must try and ensure you don’t get this disease. While it is not 100% possible to prevent breast cancer, it is possible to reduce the risk.
1) Average risk
Women who have an average risk of getting breast cancer can consider the following measures:
- It is important to do a self-examination of the breast in front of a mirror to find out if there are any changes.
- They should consider breast cancer screening and mammograms. Discussing with their doctor whether it is needed is important.
- Alcohol consumption must be stopped or limited to not more than a drink a day.
- It is important to exercise at least 150 minutes per week (30 minutes for 5 days a week).
- Weight loss can reduce risk in women who are overweight and obese.
- A healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as well as choosing healthy fats can help.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy can increase the risk and it is advisable to avoid or use the lowest hormone doses.
2) High risk
Women who are at high risk of getting breast cancer need to be extra careful. They need to consider the following (apart from all the above):
- Surgical removal of the breasts (mastectomy) is an option for women with a very high risk. They can also consider the removal of the ovaries to prevent ovarian cancer. The breasts can be reconstructed through plastic surgery.
- Certain preventive medications that block estrogen can help reduce breast cancer risk. Talk to your doctor about this.
Breast Cancer Treatment
With timely breast cancer treatment, it is possible to defeat the deadly disease. In advanced stages as in stage 4 breast cancer is difficult to treat. This is why it is important to detect breast cancer at an early stage. Doing so can help get the best treatment. The best way to detect breast cancer early is through screening. A mammogram and other diagnostic tests can help detect breast cancer early.
Once detected, there are different treatment options available. They include:
- Removal of the lump surgically.
- Removing the entire breast.
- Surgically removing affected lymph nodes.
- Radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells (done after surgery).
- Chemotherapy where powerful chemicals are given to destroy cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy and targeted therapy are other options to consider.
The key to treatment is early detection through screening. While you get screened for breast cancer, don’t forget to protect yourself from infections. The COVID virus is still around as are other viruses. It is always advisable to wear the best quality KN95 mask Singapore or KF94 mask Singapore when you leave your more. Stay protected and be healthy.
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