Due to the number of women who have called me to ask about various aspects of breast cancer, here’s a short FAQ of the most commonly asked questions (my own answers – these are from my personal experience). If you are unsure, it is best to ask your physician.

1. How do I know it’s a lump? I feel lumps everywhere.
Do your BSE. Make sure you feel both breasts (circular motion and flat-handed outward motion). If the lumps feel equal on both sides, it’s less likely to be a problem lump. For me, it wasn’t even really a “lump” (I always thought it would be hard and round like a peanut or marble, which is what some other women who have experience breast cancer tell me). It was just a thickening under the skin. And it was only because I had done my BSE all those years that I could tell there was something unusual about this spongy feeling.

2. What are other symptoms?
For me, I had a tugging pain from inside the breast, but this is unusual. Most women do not report any pain. However, common signs and symptoms include these I found on the Northwestern Memorial Hospital site:

• New breast lump/mass
• Skin thickening
• Skin dimpling
• Nipple discharge, particularly a clear or bloody discharge that is spontaneous in nature; typically women notice this type of discharge on their bra, nightgown, or bed linen
• Nipple inversion
• Any persistent skin change involving the breast or nipple that worsens or does not improve, including redness or pitting of the skin giving the breast the appearance of an orange peel, an open sore or scaling of the skin
• Change in size of one breast, including a decrease or “shrinking,” as well as an increase or “swollen” breast
• A breast that is warm or hot to the touch

3. What should I do if I see the signs?
Quickly consult your doctor and get a referral to a specialist. The most inexpensive way is to go to a Polyclinic (if you are a Singapore citizen) and get a referral from a doctor. She will probably send you to KK Hospital, where you will have a mammogram (and possibly an ultrasound) done. You will then see a breast surgeon who will explain the mammogram results to you.

Do this whether or not you think it’s “serious”. Some women mistakenly think “it’s just a small lump, maybe it will go away.” It is better to be safe than sorry — early detection of breast cancer gives you a great chance of survival. And if it turns out to be just a cyst, wouldn’t you be glad to have that peace of mind knowing it is not cancer?

Another woman I spoke to said she saw her GP and didn’t want to see a specialist. She didn’t understand why her GP couldn’t just do a test for her on the spot. Unfortunately, most GPs do not have the specialist training to ascertain if you have cancer or not. It is absolutely vital that you see a specialist—don’t take risks with your life. I haven’t heard back from this lady. I really hope she took my advice…

4. Who were your doctors?
This is probably the most popular question! I am only sharing this as friendly information, I’m not touting my surgeons, haha! These doctors made me feel secure and safe, like they understood what I was experiencing and they wanted me to come out of this with as much of my self-esteem and positive outlook intact as possible, which I think are very important for any cancer patient.

Breast surgeon:
Dr Hoe Ah Leong
is the breast surgeon I consulted. He explained what my mammogram and ultrasound showed. He also conducted a biopsy to test for the stage of cancer. Finally, he performed my mastectomy.

Dr Hoe Ah Leong
Gleneagles Medical Centre,
6 Napier Road, Suite #03-10
Singapore 258499
Tel: 65 – 6476 5922
Fax: 65 – 6476 5933
Email: enquiry@hoeahleong.sg

Reconstructive/Aesthetics surgeon:
Dr Andrew Khoo
worked in tandem with Dr Hoe to reconstruct a breast for me after Dr Hoe had performed the mastectomy. The procedure ensured that I went into to surgery with 2 breasts, and came out with 2 breasts.

Dr Andrew Khoo
Aesthetic & Reconstructive Centre
3 Mt Elizabeth Road #13-08
Singapore 228510
Tel (65) 6733 3712
Fax (65) 6733 1750
Email: info@andrewkhoo.com
24 hr Answering Service (65) 6535 8833

Dr Tan Yew Oo
is my oncologist, or cancer specialist. He advised me on the possibility of further tests, recurrence of cancer, and possible drugs/treatments I might need.

Dr Tan Yew Oo
Gleneagles Hospital 6A Napier Road, Suite #01-31
Singapore 258500
Tel: 64756833

5. I suspect I might have breast cancer. How can I reach you if I need to ask you something?
You can email me at theresa@word.sg.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charlotte Char
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 05:33:59

    Hi Theresa,
    I am not sure if you remember me from many years back during your time with Elle. I am Charlotte and I was the PR person with Bulgari. We were corresponding for a while with all those press kits and events etc.

    I came to know about your blog and your new book while reading The Sunday Times yesterday. Congratulations!

    Just want to say that you are a brave lady to have gone through the ordeal and emerged even stronger. You may not remember this but you were one of the few people in my then, very young PR career, who wrote me a short but simple email of encouragment. It was totally unexpected and meant a lot to me. Thanks again for that. Here’s wishing you good health and happiness 🙂


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