By Esther Lim, PT, DPT
Backed out of my first Mammogram appointment
Hi everyone, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This topic hits close to home for me because my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40. This means I'm at high risk for getting breast cancer myself.
I started getting mammograms 10 years before the age when my mother was diagnosed. At a hospital in New York City and in my late 20s, I recalled feeling incredibly distressed while waiting to get my first Mammogram because it triggered difficult childhood memories of when my mom was diagnosed. I just couldn't go through with my first mammogram at all because of the amount of anxiety and fear I experienced of a negative outcome and so I walked out of the radiology department crying.
Screening for breast cancer before trying to conceive the second time
Before we decided to have a second child, I made it a point to undergo breast screening with my breast doctor. Although breast cancer during pregnancy is rare, I’ve seen enough women in my career who found out they had breast cancer during pregnancy to be afraid. My doctor might have thought I was overly cautious, but I knew I could never put my unborn child’s life at risk.
Breast cancer screening subsidies in Singapore
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Singapore. Over 2000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Currently, a mammogram is still the best way to detect microcalcifications in the breast, which is a telltale sign of early breast cancer.
Mammograms for Singapore residents under Screen for Life are subsidized by the Health Promotion Board and are Medisave-claimable if you are aged 50 years and above.
You may start your screening journey by checking out the Health Promotion Board’s Screen for Life Survey. Based on your selection, it helps you determine which screening tests are required for your age and assigned gender at birth. It will also prompt you to use your Singpass to check if you’re eligible for certain subsidies.
“The best time to go is when you feel fine.” – HPB
Click the link below to take you to a survey which tells you what tests you need at each stage of your life.
Continued care and inspiration: Prof John Eu-Li Wong
Thankfully, my mother underwent curative surgery and neoadjuvant therapy and is now in remission. She continues to have annual check-ups with Prof. John Wong at NUH, who inspired me to later join the prestigious Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) as a Physical Therapist. Prof. John Wong is a medical oncologist-hematologist completed his residency and fellowship at New York – Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical Center and MSKCC. I realized part of my dream when I was offered a job at MSKCC.
She still sees Prof. John Wong annually, and he reminds her to remind me to get checked. So I do. I see my breast surgeon annually. These days, I don’t cry. I’m calm and grateful to get my breasts checked, making sure I'm still in good health for my children and family.
Sharing a snapshot of us on a family vacation. My heart is filled with gratitude with the gift of life so that my mom can continue to work and raise her children. To grow old and become a grandmother to my children.