Singaporean women holding the blue or orange Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) card and who are at least 50 years old can now get free breast-cancer screenings.
The Singapore Cancer Society (SCS), which officially opened its mammogram facility yesterday, will pay for the screening fee of $50. This financial assistance scheme is for an initial period of three years, after which it will be reviewed to see if it should be extended.
SCS chairman Choo Eng Chuan said: "Our aim is to get more Singaporean females in the lower- to middle-income groups to go for early cancer screening."
The screening can be done at the SCS multi-service centre, which is on the sixth floor of the office tower at Junction 8 in Bishan.
Mammogram services are currently offered twice a week at the centre, and in the first 32 days of operation, close to 500 eligible women have been screened. The SCS hopes to screen 2,000 women in the first year of operation.
Madam Annie Low, 60, was at the centre yesterday for her first mammogram after being encouraged to do so by an exercise instructor. "I came because it's convenient; it's walking distance from my house," the part-time sewing instructor said.
Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, who graced the event, noted that only one in three women in the 50 to 69 age group makes time for the regular check once in two years.
She said that reasons for this include having no symptoms and a perception that the procedure is uncomfortable and painful. She related how she too had to get over her own fear of pain.
"It took me some time, but after my first screening, the next ones became easier because I already know what to expect."
Urging women to follow suit, she added that even if there is pain during the 15-minute procedure, it is just for a "very short while".
More information on the free screening is available at the SCS' website.