Breast Cancer Symptoms: When to See a Doctor

Caption: One in 17 women in Singapore will likely develop breast cancer. In line with breast cancer awareness month this October, the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth group, shares the common symptoms, risk factors, screening methods and treatments for breast cancer. (iStock photo)

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Singapore today. One out of every 17 women in Singapore is likely to be affected by breast cancer, with more than 1,850 new cases diagnosed annually. Hence, it is important that every woman is aware of breast cancer symptoms and risk factors.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when breast cells become abnormal and divide without control or order. The majority of breast cancers start in the milk ducts. Breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes in the underarms and other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs and liver.

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Symptoms to watch out for

The symptoms listed below may be caused by a number of problems and may not indicate the presence of breast cancer. However, if any of these breast cancer symptoms persists or if you are unsure, do consult your doctor.

  • A lump or thickening in the breast
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • A change in the colour or feel of the skin of the breast, areola or nipple
  • Bloodstained discharge from the nipple
  • Persistent rash on the nipple and/or areola
  • A recently retracted or inverted nipple

Risk factors for breast cancer

  • Have one or more close relative(s) with breast cancer, e.g. mother, sister, aunt or grandmother
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Previous breast biopsy showing atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in-situ
  • Early menstruation, i.e. before the age of 12
  • Late menopause, i.e. after the age of 55
  • Having the first child after the age of 30
  • Regular consumption of alcohol
  • Women on long-term use of combined hormone replacement therapy

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Treatments for breast cancer

Breast cancer treatment options include:

  • Surgery – ranging from a lumpectomy to mastectomy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Hormone therapy

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Articles on are meant for informational purposes only and cannot replace professional surgical, medical or health advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment.