It’s fair to say that we’ve all become acutely aware of how to look after ourselves as we’ve lived through the pandemic. So, aside from face masks and hand washing, it’s an excellent chance to take stock of our more comprehensive health and start to consider things like a mammogram.
Living a hectic life can mean that cancer screenings like mammograms can be forgotten or pushed to one side.
If you’re new to Hong Kong and not sure where to start with your healthcare or even if you have been here a while and are finally ready to start taking care of yourself, we’re here to help.
Mammograms in Hong Kong guide
In this article, we will go through all things breast-related and make sure they’re healthy… you get the picture, right? We will provide a rundown on:
- Mammograms, the what and the why
- How you can check your boobs yourself and what to look for
- What happens during a mammogram
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is like an x-ray for your breast tissue that checks for changes and abnormalities that could be early warning signs for cancer.
There are two general types of mammogram, a screening mammogram, and a diagnostic mammogram. The name tells you a lot, but to be clear:
- A screening mammogram is your regular check-up to see if anything’s changed.
- A diagnostic mammogram is done to check out an abnormality that you’ve found.
It’s possible to categorize mammograms in other ways too, which we’re going to get into the details of later.
Mammograms aren’t invasive – nothing gets cut open or injected.
Why would I need a mammogram?
Mammograms are done to detect early signs of breast cancer and can detect issues up to three years before you’d feel anything to touch, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
They’re generally done on women – although men have breast tissue, lower levels of estrogen, generally mean there is less risk of abnormalities. Men can have mammograms, but they’re not recommended as standard screening.
When would I need a mammogram?
Women who are 40 years old or more should be getting an annual mammogram. This is because rates of breast cancer start to go up after this age.
They’re not just a screening procedure; it’s possible that you may need a diagnostic mammogram. So, for example, if you’ve been doing a routine self-examination – more on this coming up – and you find something to be concerned about, a diagnostic mammogram is a next step.
Is there a history of breast cancer in your family? You can get tested for genetic markers, to be sure, and it’s recommended that you start regular mammograms five years before the age anyone in your family got diagnosed with cancer.
Self-examination and breast screening
Doctors recommend that you check your breasts once a month. You’ve probably heard that advice a million times, but do you check your chesticles?
Mammograms can detect cancer and other abnormalities early. Although checking your own boobs won’t necessarily pick up on cancer any earlier, but they do tend to encourage people to get screened and tested more often.
How to do a self-examination of your breasts
It’s essential to get to know your breasts, so you know when something isn’t quite right. So here’s how to do a breast self-exam:
- In the shower, you should check all around and over your boobs and under your arms by applying medium-firm pressure with two or three fingers
- In front of the mirror, check the appearance of your boobs. First, put your arms by your sides, then lift your arms over your head; next, put your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles.
- Lying down, put a pillow under one shoulder and feel around your boob with two or three fingertips. Squeeze your nipple in case there’s any discharge. Then, switch the pillow to the other shoulder and go again.
What to look out for when performing a breast self-exam
Through each of these steps, you should be looking out for changes or differences. Be on the lookout for things like:
- Thickening of the skin
- Changes in your nipples as you move
Remember, your boobs aren’t going to be exactly the same on both sides – few people’s boobs are!
Any changes like this aren’t a surefire sign of cancer, but they do mean you should book in with a doctor who will likely order a mammogram as one of the first steps to determining what it is.
Frequency of self-examination
You should do your breast self-exam each month, at the same time each month. This is so your hormones and period won’t be affecting your boobs – we all know they get all big and sensitive just before the red wave comes crashing in.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
The earliest sign of breast cancer, without any medical tests, are the changes in your boobs that self-examinations can often pick up. It doesn’t guarantee cancer, but changes in your boobs mean you need to go to the doctor.
Along with the changes we went through above, you should also be looking out for:
- A change in the size or shape of one of your boobs
- Swelling or lumps in your armpits
- A rash around or on your nipple
- Your nipples being different; for example, they start to sink into your boob
You’re unlikely to feel unwell due to breast cancer unless it’s not been found early, which is rare.
What the doctor is looking for in your results
On a screening or diagnostic mammogram, the person reading the results is looking for:
- Small white spots which are calcification
- Masses or lumps
- Other signs that something isn’t quite normal
If something has been detected in your mammogram, your doctor will go through all your options for further testing.
Does my insurance cover breast cancer screening?
Some medical and health insurance will cover cancer and cancer screening while others won’t.
It’s worth checking through your policy if it’s something that’s concerning you.
It turns out you’ve not got cancer screening and treatment included in your plan? Speak with an insurance broker who can help find a policy that meets you and your family’s needs.
If you’ve got wellness and checkup benefits in your policy, they may be covered even if mammograms aren’t mentioned. Chat with the broker who arranged your policy or call your insurance provider directly to find out what’s what.
What happens during the mammogram procedure?
Have you heard scare stories about mammograms?
Lots of women say they’re anything from uncomfortable to downright painful. However, remember that missing out on finding cancer early could be a lot worse for you.
Typical steps involved in getting a mammogram
The process is going to be the same for pretty much every woman, so here’s what you can expect:
- Arrive at the clinic for your screening and book in with the receptionist – you might be asked for insurance details and personal information.
- Once you get called into the clinic, you should be given a chance to ask any questions before anything happens.
- Now you’re comfortable; you’ll be asked to undress above the waist. It’s worth avoiding wearing a dress that day.
- Your boob needs to sit on a plastic plate. The person performing your mammogram will help you position your boob, and you’ll have to get up close to the machine, so everything gets in the image.
- Another plate will be brought down from above and will be pressed down on your boob. This is where it can get uncomfortable, with quite a bit of pressure being applied.
- You’ll be left alone in the room while the image is taken and then be repositioned for a different view of that boob before moving on to the other side.
In total, it’s likely there’ll be four images taken. After that, a quick check gets done to check the image quality, so you won’t have to go through that again for another year!
Sure, there might be some pain involved, but it’s not going to cause you any lasting damage. Pretty much every woman will get mammograms throughout their lives; it’s one of the things that makes us the more resilient sex, after all!
Where can I get a mammogram in Hong Kong?
We’d not hesitate to recommend you make an appointment at Hong Kong Vascular Surgery Centre. Their clinic is clean, and the wait time usually is short. If you’re not sure if your insurance will cover the entire cost of your mammogram, then this is an excellent option.
By being located in Jordan, you can be sure that you will not be paying Central prices. For a consultation about breast screening and to see if you need a mammogram, you can contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org or +852 6619-6286.
FAQs – mammograms in Hong Kong
There’s a lot to think about with mammograms. It’s not unusual to worry about the outcome and possibly think about putting it off.
But, we don’t recommend that! Instead, read these answers to put your mind at ease.
Have we missed any questions you might have about mammograms? Ask your questions in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to find the answers for you.
Can I get a breast ultrasound instead of a mammogram?
It’s possible to have an ultrasound instead of a mammogram for breast cancer screening. However, the results of an ultrasound tend to only look at superficial issues, whereas a mammogram can see deeper into your breast.
You can book packages that include both types of exams if you’re concerned or want to have the full suite of available tests.
What is the typical age for getting a mammogram?
A woman with no history of breast cancer in the family should start going for regular annual mammograms at 40.
However, if you’ve got a history of breast cancer in the family, you can consider starting earlier. Two genes are known to contain markers for breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which can be tested so you can make informed choices.
If you’re predisposed to breast cancer, start screening five years before the earliest diagnosed age in your family. For example, this means that if your aunt was diagnosed at 40, you should start having regular mammograms at the age of 35.
How much is a mammogram in Hong Kong?
Prices for a mammogram in Hong Kong can vary depending on the services you get.
Some of the things that differentiate the different prices include:
– Whether an ultrasound is included in the package
– If the mammogram is a 2D or 3D mammogram
– How many consultations you’ll get
– If you want other tests included, like a PAP smear
As a rough guide, the average price of just a mammogram is somewhere around the $2,000 mark. Don’t forget to see if your insurance policy will cover the cost of a mammogram.
Can I book a mammogram near me in Hong Kong?
Yes, booking a mammogram is easy. Try making a booking at Hong Kong Vascular Surgery Centre @ Shop 4, G/F, Fu Lee Commercial Building, 14-20 Pilkem Street, Jordan.
They have a small clean clinic, they generally don’t make you wait long, the service is excellent and pricing is lower than what you’ll find in some of the more Centrally located clinics.
Living a hectic life can mean that cancer screenings like mammograms can be forgotten or pushed to one side. If you’re new to Hong Kong and not sure where to start with your healthcare or even if you have been here a while and are finally ready to start taking care of yourself, we’re here to help.
We want nothing more than for people in the community to live healthier lives by managing their health risks proactively so they don’t develop any serious illnesses down the road. So go get a mammogram!