Breast Screening in Singapore: A Step-by-Step Guide

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month and the team at All Things Delicious is going PINK! We are proud to be standing together once more with those who are affected by it. To all you ladies, especially if you are between the ages 40-50 years old, take the leap and get yourself checked via a mammogram. Before we get into the steps of booking for a mammogram, let’s understand a little bit better two common ways that can help detect any anomaly to your breasts.

1. UNDERSTANDING BREAST CANCER

Breast Cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast tissue that may be due to genetics and environmental factors. Hence, early detection can increase the chance of survival. Here are common factors that may determine you as a high-risk patient.

You are at higher risk if:

Besides age and a family history of breast cancer, other risk factors include:

2. AM I SUITABLE TO GO FOR A MAMMOGRAM TEST?

WHAT IS A MAMMOGRAM?

Mammograms are a low-dose X-Ray examination on the breasts. The breast is gently compressed between two plates of the X-ray machine, one breast at a time. These images will be seen by radiologists to check for abnormalities. As of now, mammograms are the most accurate way to detect breast cancer even before they can even be seen or felt.

As much as it is encouraged for women to get checked professionally, it is not recommended for all ages or to go frequently. Below, you may find a guide on when you are encouraged to check,

a. If you are below the age of 40, you are encouraged to do a routine breast self-examination¹ every month, about a week after the start of your menstrual period.

    SELF EXAMINATION ROUTINE

    Monthly breast self-examination can improve your awareness of your own breasts and help notice any changes.

    However, if you do feel a lump around the area of your breast or underarm (armpit), or even other signs such as,

    • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
    • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
    • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
    • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
    • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
    • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
    • Pain in any area of the breast

    It is highly encouraged to get it professionally checked or take a mammogram, if needed.

    b. If you are between the age of 40-49, you are encouraged to go for a mammogram once a year. When in doubt, you may seek professional advice from your doctor to check the benefits and limitations of getting a mammogram. However, you are still encouraged to do a self-examination¹.
    c. If you are 50 years and above, you are encouraged to go for your mammogram screening once every two years unless your doctor advises you otherwise. Make it a routine to do a self-examination¹.

      3. HOW TO BOOK FOR A MAMMOGRAM

      Before booking for an appointment, we encourage you to check for subsidies.

      As most women are at risk of breast cancer, the Screen for Life Breast Cancer Screening programme has been developed by the Health Promotion Board Singapore, and ever since 2002 they have been aiding Singaporean women under a highly subsidised rate.

      Below are types of subsidies available to help Singaporean women.

      A mammogram costs $138 GST at participating BreastScreen Singapore screening centres. With subsidies from HPB, the test will cost (valid for Females only):


      Photo by: Health Hub Singapore

      If you are 50 years old and above, you may use your Medisave or the Medisave of an immediate family member for your Mammogram at Medisave-approved centres, including participating centres under the Medisave500 scheme.  You can use up to $500 per Medisave account a year under this scheme.

      Afterwards, check for eligibility for the subsidy.

      You are eligible for the mammogram screening under the Screen for Life programme if you meet the following criteria:

      1. You are a Singaporean or Permanent Resident

      • You are above the age of 50 years or 
      • You are between the age of 40-49 and decide to go for your mammogram after you consulted your doctor

      2. You currently do not have any of the breast symptoms below. However, if you noticed any of these changes in the breasts, please consult a doctor immediately.

      • Painless lump
      • Persistent rash around nipple
      • Bleeding or unusual discharge from nipple
      • Swollen or thickened skin
      • Dented inwards or folded outwards skin
      • Retracted nipple

      3. You have not gone for a screening mammogram

      • Within the past one year if you are between the age of 40 to 49 years and decide to go for a mammogram after you consulted your doctor
      • Within the past two years if you are above 50 years of age
      • You do not have any breast symptoms at the moment (for example lumps, bleed or discharge from the nipple, pain in the breast etc.)

      After checking all the available help you can get, you can proceed to book an appointment

      Below is a list of subsidy approved clinics/ hospitals for your mammogram.

      Screening Centres for Mammograms

      Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic Alexandra Hospital
      Bukit Batok Polyclinic Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
      Bukit Merah Polyclinic KK Women's And Children's Hospital
      Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic Mt Alvernia Hospital
      Geylang Polyclinic National Cancer Centre
      Clementi Polyclinic National University Hospital
      Hougang Polyclinic Orchard Imaging Centre
      Jurong Polyclinic Radiologic Clinic (At Health Promotion Board)
      Pasir Ris Polyclinic Radiologic Clinic - Breast Imaging Centre
      Queenstown Polyclinic Raffles Hospital
      Sengkang Polyclinic Singapore General Hospital
      Tampines Polyclinic StarMed Specialist Centre Pte Ltd
      Toa Payoh Polyclinic Tan Tock Seng Hospital
      Woodlands Polyclinic Thomson Medical Centre
      Yishun Polyclinic Thomson Medical Centre

      You can also book a mammogram appointment through BreastScreen Singapore Hotline: 1800 333 3030. Another way is to book an appointment on a mammobus, a community screening organised by BCF. Click here to view the full list of Mammobus deployments. You can also check for other subsidies² available.

      4. SHOW UP FOR THE APPOINTMENT

      The last step to this guide is to show up for your appointment.

      There are many reasons to put off mammogram appointments such as feeling anxiety over the results. Therefore, it is important to identify these fears and learn ways to deal with them in an ideal and healthy way so that they do not get in the way of your health and wellbeing. Here are ways to prepare yourself for a mammogram!

      We hope this step by step guide will help and encourage you to go for your necessary screenings and also practice monthly self-examinations for breast cancer. Prevention and early detection can always save lives! Let’s #gopink and raise awareness together.

      At All Things Delicious, we’re standing in support of breast cancer awareness by pledging to donate 10% of any Pink Products purchased in the entire month of October 2022 to the Breast Cancer Foundation. Play your part by purchasing a Pink Box and gift it to anyone to continue raising awareness about breast cancer or start the conversation.


      Reference:

      1. Self Examination¹ : Self examination is to be done about 1 week after the start of your menstrual period. If you no longer menstruate, do a breast self-examination of a fixed date each month. (E.g. first day of the month)
      2. Other subsidies² : If you have a valid Blue or Orange CHAS card, are aged above 50 years and above, and have not gone for your mammogram in the last two years, there are also funding assistance programmes offered by Singapore Cancer Society, to help you cope with screening costs.