Are mammograms painful? Do you need to go for breast cancer screening if you’re young and have no family history? Let’s answer all that and more.
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Did you know: breast cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in Singaporean women. As its name suggests, breast cancer is the cancer of breast tissues, and all women are at risk.
Thankfully, with medicine as advanced as it is today, treatment is possible, and with early detection, survival rates can be improved. Breast cancer often presents no symptoms, so the best way to protect yourself is by doing regular self-examinations and going for mammogram screenings.
Mammograms are an x-ray of your breast, taken with a special machine that presses your breast with a plate. Doctors use this to look for lumps and any abnormal growths in the breast. Many myths surround the procedure because of how mammograms are done, causing women to shy away from mammograms.
The first myth is that mammograms are very painful. While it is true that mammograms may hurt a little for some, most women only feel discomfort. Secondly, many believe that breast cancer is purely genetic, so they don’t need to go for screenings if they do not have any family history. In actuality, studies show that 70% of women with breast cancer do not have a family history. Another myth is that only older women get breast cancer, which is not true. The Singapore Cancer Registry reported that from 2010 to 2014, 18% of women who had invasive breast cancer were under 45 years old.
Hence, no matter your age or family history, it is recommended that you do a monthly self-examination at home, preferably a week after your period. After 40, you should discuss the benefits of going for regular mammograms (usually once a year) with your doctor. For those 50 and up, the recommended cadence for a mammogram is once every two years.
Aside from mammograms, you may have heard of ultrasound screening. Although it is another way to detect breast cancer, mammograms remain the primary screening tool as it is the only one proven effective in reducing the number of breast cancer deaths.