When it comes to cancer management, early detection is everything. It allows for better patient outcomes, and even better, higher survival rates.
For breast cancer screening in Singapore, Mammograms present the best chances for early detection. The big question is, how early can it detect cancer? Find out in this guide including its role in saving lives.
Table of Contents
What is a Mammogram?
Mammograms are specialized X-ray examinations that focus on the breast tissue. They can detect subtle changes or abnormalities that might indicate the presence of breast cancer, even before any symptoms arise.
The procedure involves compressing the breast between two plates to obtain high-quality images. Mammograms are safe and non-invasive. And what’s more, they have low levels of radiation exposure.
Can you Detect Cancer before Symptoms?
The key to successful cancer treatment is detecting it before symptoms become apparent. So yes, you can detect cancer before symptoms.
And mammograms excel at this task by enabling the detection of breast abnormalities at a microscopic level. It allows for tiny calcifications or masses that cannot be felt during a physical examination, so you have better chances for early intervention.
So, at What Age Should I get a Mammogram?
To begin with, mammogram guidelines vary across different organizations and countries. But your women’s health specialist may recommend a mammogram screening in Singapore if they suspect that you’re at risk of catching breast cancer.
Back to the age factor, according to the American Cancer Society, you should start considering mammograms at age 40. After that, you will need to continue with yearly screenings.
However, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) you should begin your biennial mammograms at age 50. This is if you have average risks of getting breast cancer.
So, to determine the best age for you to get a mammogram screening in Singapore, it helps to consider your own individual risk factors. A good women’s health specialist can help you figure this out. Most importantly, they will engage you in personalized risk assessment discussions to determine the most appropriate screening strategy.
Is Mammography Foolproof?
While beginning mammograms on time is stressed upon, many people ask, is it foolproof? Well, just like any medical procedure, mammogram also has its benefits and limitations.
When discussing mammogram screening in Singapore with a good women’s health specialist, you can expect them to walk you through the benefits, limitations and risks so you make an informed decision. Here is a summary of the benefits and limitations of mammography;
Benefits of Mammography
- Early detection and improved survival rates: Studies have consistently shown that early detection through mammography leads to higher survival rates. When you identify cancer at its earliest stages, you have the best chances of having it treated and cured.
- Potential for less aggressive treatment options: Detecting breast cancer early means that you get access to a comprehensive range of treatment options. These options may include range from invasive surgeries, to targeted therapies. You may also only need hormone-based treatments. This wide range of treatment options can help you reduce the physical and emotional burdens that come with cancer.
- Increased treatment success and improved quality of life: As earlier mentioned, a mammogram could just be all you need to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages. This means that you will be best placed to benefit from early intervention and more successful treatment outcomes. This can result in improved quality of life. It can also help you reduce treatment side effects, and get higher chance of long-term survival.
Limitations of Mammography
While mammograms can help you detect breast cancer, it also comes with a few limitations as mentioned before. Here is a quick summary of the most notable limitations of mammograms;
- False positives and unnecessary follow-up procedures: Mammograms can sometimes indicate abnormalities that turn out to be benign, leading to unnecessary worry and further testing. False positives may result in additional biopsies or other invasive procedures, causing temporary patient anxiety and discomfort.
- False negatives and the possibility of missed cancers: Mammograms are highly accurate. However, there is still a small chance of false negatives. There are cases when breast cancers may not be detected by mammography. This is especially true for women with dense breast tissue or in younger individuals. This highlights the importance of considering other diagnostic tools or following up with additional screenings if there are persistent symptoms or concerns.
- Challenges in detecting certain types of breast cancer: Mammograms may have limitations in detecting certain types of breast cancer, such as fast-growing or aggressive tumors. Also, dense breast tissue can make detecting abnormalities on a mammogram is more complicated. In these cases, additional diagnostic tools like ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be recommended to provide a more comprehensive evaluation.
What are the Recent Advancements in Mammography Equipment?
- There have been massive advancements in mammography in recent years. This has not only contributed to higher accuracy but also higher early detection rates. Here are some of the most notable tech advancements in mammography;
- Digital mammography has replaced traditional film-based mammography, allowing for easier image storage, retrieval, and transmission. This technology provides radiologists with clearer and more detailed images, enhancing their ability to identify potential abnormalities.
- Another breakthrough is 3D mammography, also known as tomosynthesis. This technology creates a three-dimensional image of the breast, providing radiologists with a more comprehensive view and reducing the chances of false positives. Studies have shown that 3D mammography has improved cancer detection rates while reducing the need for additional imaging.
- Contrast-enhanced mammography is another promising technology. It involves injecting a contrast agent into the patient’s bloodstream to highlight abnormal blood vessels associated with tumors. This technique enhances the visibility of breast lesions, especially in cases where conventional mammography may be inconclusive.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are also being incorporated into mammography interpretation. These technologies have the potential to analyze vast amounts of data and assist radiologists in identifying subtle patterns or abnormalities that may be missed by the human eye. AI-powered algorithms can help reduce false positives and false negatives, improving the overall accuracy of mammogram readings.
What are Alternative tests to Mammograms?
Having mammogram screening in Singapore could be all you need to understand your risk factors for breast cancer. While mammography is a vital screening tool, it is often complemented by other diagnostic methods to provide a more comprehensive evaluation. These include;
- Ultrasounds: Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the breast, helping to distinguish between solid masses and fluid-filled cysts. It is particularly useful in evaluating palpable lumps or abnormalities detected during mammograms.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI is highly sensitive and can detect even the smallest abnormalities in breast tissue. It is often recommended for high-risk individuals or for further evaluation following a mammogram or ultrasound.
- Biopsy: This remains the gold standard for definitively diagnosing breast cancer. It involves removing a small tissue sample for examination under a microscope. Various biopsy techniques, including core needle biopsy and minimally invasive procedures like vacuum-assisted biopsy, are used to obtain tissue samples accurately.
These supplementary diagnostic tools work hand in hand with mammography, helping to confirm or rule out the presence of cancer and guide treatment decisions.
The Bottom Line
Early detection through mammograms is instrumental in combating breast cancer. Regular screenings can identify abnormalities before symptoms manifest, leading to more successful treatment outcomes and improved quality of life for patients.
To learn more about mammogram screening in Singapore or schedule an appointment with a women’s health specialist, get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment. Call or visit us at:
The Health Advisory Clinic
One Raffles Place, #04-49
1 Raffles Place, Singapore 048616
Tel: (+65) 6226 6442