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We’re familiar with the fact that regular mammograms should start when you hit 40, but when should you start having a breast check?

According to Dr Felicia Tan from FeM Surgery, women should get their breasts checked every year after the age of 20.

But you don’t necessarily have to go to a doctor to do a breast examination—you can also DIY. It really doesn’t matter who carries it out as long as you get your sisters checked.

“A survey done by Breast Cancer Foundation in 2017 found that 27 percent of women have not done a breast examination on their own or by a doctor. It’s crucial that women start doing these examinations early.”

She explains that a breast check for a woman under 40 involves an examination by a doctor and a breast ultrasound. Women above 40 are usually recommended to do both a breast ultrasound and mammogram.

(Read also “Myths Vs Reality: Everything You Need To Know About Breast Cancer“)

A breast check helps your detect abnormalities early

Credit: 123rf

Conducting a breast check regularly allows you to detect lumps and other abnormalities ASAP.

“A lump in the breast could be caused by a tumour, whether cancerous or benign; a cyst, which means there’s fluid in the breast; an infection, which involves abscess; or an area of thickened breast tissue,” says Dr Tan. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore and can happen to women of any age.

“According to statistics released by the Singapore Cancer Society, breast cancer affects one in 11 women here in their lifetime.”

She adds that women who detect breast cancer in the earlier stages have a higher survival rate, at about 81 percent, as compared to women with breast cancer in the later stages. But this doesn’t mean all lumps are life-threatening. In fact, most of them are harmless.

“Majority of breast lumps felt by women are benign. However, all breast lumps should be fully assessed by a breast specialist before coming to the conclusion that it’s benign.”

The thing is, though, that breast cancer isn’t preventable but early detection through screening programmes can make it potentially curable, so it’s best to do that yearly check.

This article was first published in Cleo.