From diagnosis through treatment, from recovery to remission, knowing more about breast cancer helps many women cope. ​

Dr Tan Yah Yuen, Consultant Surgeon from KK Breast Unit at KK Women's and Children's Hospital and Dr Yong Wei Sean, Senior Consultant from the Division of Surgical Oncology at National Cancer Centre Singapore, give detailed answers to your questions.​​

Question by joygoh

I have a mole grown on the left side of my nipple. It seems to be getting bigger over the past 2 years. I am in my early 30s. Is this a sign of breast cancer?

Answered by Dr. Tan Yah Yuen, KK Hospital

A mole on the breast or near the nipple is unlikely to be due to breast cancer. An uncommon presentation of breast cancer is that of an eczematous rash over the nipple and areola; called Paget's disease. However, if the mole is growing, ulcerates or bleeds, then a biopsy needs to be done to exclude malignant melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer.

Question by prettybaby

I detected a lump on my breast, i am quite worried that i will have breast cancer. Should i consider a thorought check up or i should wait for another month to see whether the lump will subside ?

My family do not have any history of breast cancer.

Answered by Dr. Tan Yah Yuen, KK Hospital

If you are unsure whether there is a lump in the breast, you should see your family doctor for a clinical examination. Your family doctor may order certain tests such as a mammogram or an ultrasound to confirm the lump and determine its nature, or refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. Any woman has a risk of breast cancer, even if there is no family history. The majority of women with newly diagnosed breast cancer will not have a family history.

Question by maddog

I am advised by doctor to go for mastectomy, can you please explain what are the benefits for such operations and it risks?

Answered by Dr. Tan Yah Yuen, KK Hospital

A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. This is recommended if the cancer involves a large area of the breast, relative to the entire size of the breast. If the cancer is in the early stages, radiotherapy is not needed after mastectomy. Aside from anaesthesia risks, the surgical risk of a mastectomy is minimal and is related to bleeding and infection, which are easily treated. You may choose to have a reconstruction of the breast at the same time as the mastectomy.

Question by Judylin

Dear Doctor I just married this year. Would like to check with you, does using birth control pills cause breast cancer? Understand that birth control pills do contain certain hormones. Is breast cancer affect only post-menopausal women? Judy

Answered by Dr. Tan Yah Yuen, KK Hospital

There is conflicting evidence regarding the risk of breast cancer associated with prolonged use of birth control pills. While some research has suggested there is a risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women associated with long term oral contraceptive use, other studies show that there is less risk with newer oral contraceptive preparations. Short term use of oral contraceptives up to 1-2 years is unlikely to lead to significantly increased clinical risk. Breast cancer can affect both pre-menopausal women and post-menopausal women. Any woman above the age of 40 in Singapore has at least a 5% risk of breast cancer in her lifetime.

Question by seantan

How often and when should a woman check her breasts? Is self-examination enough to detect any early signs? Does a diet full of meat increase your chance of getting breast cancer? What are risk factors of breast cancer? Thank you!

Answered by Dr. Tan Yah Yuen, KK Hospital

A woman should do her own breast self examination once a month, 3-5 days after the first day of her period. Self examination is important as it may pick up painless breast lumps, or other symptoms such as nipple discharge. However, for women 40 years old and above, in addition to breast self examination they should also go for 1-2 yearly mammogram screening to detect early signs of breast cancer.

Risk factors of breast cancer include age (the older the woman, the higher the risk), a personal or family history of breast cancer, post-menopausal hormone therapy use for >5 years. Other minor risk factors include obesity and a diet high in saturated fats. Stick to lean meat in the diet to reduce your breast cancer risk.

Question by karvellannie48

hi gd day to you, my mother was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer 03 years ago . she had her total masactomy done . my question is the window perido is 05 years but will there be any replase of cancer ? and what are the blood test she has to do in order to be on the right track?

Answered by Dr. Tan Yah Yuen, KK Hospital

Stage 1 breast cancer has a low risk of relapse after treatment. Most relapses, if they do occur, will manifest within the first 5 years. Occasionally breast cancers can relapse 10-20 years after initial treatment. No blood tests are necessary routinely, unless the woman has abnormal symptoms. The woman should be aware of any unusual swelling in the armpit or neck region, or persistent pain for discomfort in the abdomen or in the bones, shortness of breath etc. If these symptoms develop, then further tests will be necessary. After a mastectomy, a mammogram of the other breast should be done yearly.

Question by gloria_nicki

My aunt has been diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, she is considering alternative treatment such as acupuncture. I am wondering will this treatment will help her condition. Please advise.

Answered by Dr. Tan Yah Yuen, KK Hospital

Breast cancer requires treatment with surgery, and sometimes other adjuvant methods including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and endocrine treatment. Alternative treatments such as acupuncture are unlikely to benefit or cure the breast cancer.

Question by miki

May i know what are the risk factors for Breast Cancer? What can we do to lower down our risk?

Answered by Dr. Yong Wei Sean, National Cancer Centre, Singapore

May i know what are the risk factors for Breast Cancer ?

Some of the risk factors include early menarche, late menopause, taking oral contraceptives, taking HRT, nulliparous, having first child after age 30, prev chest radiation, family history of breast cancer, prev breast biopsy showing atypia, obesity, too much alcohol etc.

What can we do to lower down our risk?

Exercise and healthy lifestyle

Question by Dav e

My lady friend was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 2 over 6 years ago. She is now in remission. Does this mean she is fully cured, as she has passed the 5 year mark? What must she do to prevent relapse?

Answered by Dr. Yong Wei Sean, National Cancer Centre, Singapore

Does this mean she is fully cured, as she has passed the 5 year mark?


What must she do to prevent relapse?

Nothing particular, ensure healthy lifestyle, continue regular follow up with doctor, breast self exam and regular mammogram.

Ref: W09