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Cancer Information

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

The female breast is made up mainly of:

  • Lobules (milk-producing glands)
  • Ducts (tiny tubes that carry the milk from the lobules to the nipple)

  • Stroma (fatty tissue and connective tissue surrounding the ducts and lobules, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels)


Breast cancer is a group of cancer cells or malignant tumour that has developed from the cells in the breast. These cancer cells have grown into the surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. It usually starts in the cells of the lobules (the milk-producing glands) or the ducts (the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple).

In other cases, this type of cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which are the fibrous and fatty connective tissues of the breast.

  • Women and men over the age of 55 (the risk increases with age)
  • Those with family history of breast cancer
  • Those who are under prolonged hormone replacement therapy
  • Alcohol d​​rinkers
  • Obese men and women
  • Women who have started their period at a younger age; women who started the menopausal stage at a later age
  • Women who had their first child at an older age
  • Women who have never been pregnant

* People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.

In the early stages of breast cancer, there is usually no pain or symptoms at all. Breast cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • A lump in the breast or armpits
  • Changes in the shape or size of the nipple, of one or both breasts
  • Nipple discharge (In some cases, this may contain blood)
  • Visible veins on the breasts
  • Dimpling of the skin of the breasts
  • Rashes on or around the nipple
  • Pain in the vagina
  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Maintain a health weight
  • Be physically active
  • Eat the right foods
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, and taking birth control pills
  • Find out your family history
  • Breastfeed, if possible
  • Avoid hormone replacement therapy
  • Get regular screenings

* The chart below states the recommended guidelines for breast screening.breast-screening.jpg 

Source: Health Promotion Board

Like other cancer types, regular screening can detect breast cancer early — when it is likely to be curable. In addition, breast cancer, as doctors often say, is sometimes found right after the symptoms appear, but many of those with early cancer have no symptoms. This is why getting the following recommended screening tests is important:​

  • Breast Self-Exam: A self-exam is a proactive ​​way t​​o detect breast lumps early. Look for changes in the breast, and feel them for lumps or hardened areas.
  • Clinical Breast Exam: A clinical breast exam is performed by a healthcare professional. This should be part of your annual checku​p starting the age of 20.
  • Mammogram: This is a special type of X-ray to look for abnormal changes or growths in the breast tissue.
  • Breast Ultrasound: Doctors use ultrasound images to see whether a lump is a cyst.
  • Breast MRI: During an MRI, a magnet connected to a computer transmits energy and waves through the breast tissue. This provides detailed pictures of areas within the breast.
  • Breast Biopsy: This is a test wherein a healthcare professional removes tissue or fluid from a suspicious area, which is then tested for the presence of cancer.

Listed below are the main types of treatment:


Surgery is the most common form of treatment for the disease. During the procedure, a surgeon removes the tumour and other affected areas. Surgical options may include the following:

  • Lumpectomy
  • Partial or Radical Mastectomy
  • Reconstruction


This uses a combination of drugs to either destroy the cancer cells or slow down their ability to grow and divide. Chemotherapy is often prescribed by a medical oncologist.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy X-rays or other particles to kill cancer cells. The most common type of radiation therapy is the external beam radiation therapy, wherein radiation is emitted from a machine outside the body.

Hormone Therapy

If you choose hormone therapy, the doctor may prescribe hormone therapy drugs. These drugs destroy cancer cells by limiting their hormone supply.

Targeted Therapy

This uses targeted drugs that block the growth of breast cancer cells in specific ways. These drugs work differently from the standard chemotherapy drugs.​​


Here at NCIS, we adopt a comprehensive ​and holistic three-prong Total Breast Cancer Care approach in managing patients who have been afflicted with breast cancer. Under the Total Breast Cancer Care approach, emphasis is centered on the patient with clinical, research and educational initiatives focused on them. Current treatment is optimised, value-added resources are provided and there is increased access to new drugs to counter patien​t relapse. Furthermore, continuous research is conducted to seek out new treatments alongside patient education to guide patients through their journey with breast cancer.

Optimising Clinical Care

Breast cancer presentation varies widely between patients, some presenting with early, curative disease (Stage 0) and others with late disease. It is essential that all patients are properly staged and the appropriate treatment planned. At NC​IS, we work as a multidisciplinary team – surgeons and oncologists together with radiologists and pathologists so that a diagnosis is obtained and treatment started in a timely manner. The treatment for every patient is discussed at regular weekly meetings by the whole team and the best option is chosen for each individual.

In a patient's journey through this – there are many specialists involved and part of the problem may be navigating different clinic locations. Her​e at NCIS, all specialists involved in breast cancer care have been housed in one convenient location (Levels 8-10 Medical Centre).


Breast cancer treatment has improved tremendously in the past two decades, and this is due to active research in the disease. All specialists on the team are engaged in research covering all aspects of breast cancer care and treatment– and patients are regularly invited to participate in research activities to increase our understanding of the disease, its behavior and how we can improve treatment responses.

Patient Education and Support

A diagnosis of cancer is always overwhelming – more so for breast cancer as women have to accept changes in physical appearance as well.

To provide our patients with a relatable support system to ease them through their journey with the illness, we offer the following support services and functions:

  • Breast Care Nurses – We have an excellent team of breast care nurses who are there to provide support, counseling and advice for each stage of the treatment, as the patient will be cared for by different doctors at each stage (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy).
  • Patient Support Groups – To embrace patients into a larger support community of like-minded individuals who are there to listen and share their experiences in dealing with the illness. To find out more about our Breast Cancer Support Group, click here.
  • Interactive Website – Providing patients with accessible and convenient access to expert and up-to-date information pertaining to the illness as well as providing patients with a platform to blog about their personal experiences and make online enquiries with our doctors about their symptoms.

Complete breast cancer treatment is the coordinated effort of four specialist teams involved in diagnosis (Surgeons & Radiologists) and treatment (Surgeons & Oncologists).

Our Breast Imaging Centre, located behind the Breast Care Centre is helmed by Associate Professor Quek Swee Tian with a team of dedicated breast radiologists. We also have a team of seven breast surgeons, six medical oncologists and two radiation oncologists.


Medical Oncology


Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery

Radiation Oncology