Although breast screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help detect breast cancer early when it is still small and contained. This offers the opportunity for you to get early treatment and better outcomes.
There are two main types of breast screening tools with varying functions – mammogram and ultrasound. However, the mammogram is the primary screening method offered in Singapore, with ultrasounds providing a more comprehensive picture of your breast – often being used in conjunction with a mammogram to tell the difference between masses or guide a future biopsy.
A mammogram is a screening procedure that uses low dose x-rays to examine changes and abnormalities in your breast tissue, such as tiny white spots of calcium (called calcifications) or masses even before they can be felt3. It does this by compressing each breast between the x-ray machine’s two plates. The process is repeated for each breast, capturing digital images in only a few seconds.
If the results show any abnormalities, your health screening physician may order additional tests such as a repeat mammogram and an ultrasound scan. An abnormal mammogram does not always mean that a woman has breast cancer. However, if the results are suspicious, you will be referred to the breast specialist for further evaluation.
An ultrasound sends high-speed sound waves through your breast to assess masses or other suspicious areas (often found in a mammogram)4. During this process, an ultrasound technician will move a device known as a transducer over your skin, converting its readings into pictures.
In the case where a lump is located, an ultrasound can determine if the lump is solid or filled with fluid4 (cyst). These solid masses have the potential to be cancer.