FAQ - Breast Cancer Questions
The Breast Institute
We hope the following frequently asked breast cancer questions will help clarify some of your own questions regarding breast cancer risk and diagnosis.
It’s important to know your risk, and even if you’re not at high risk, you still need to be vigilant. Yearly mammograms once you turn 40 years old is important. Studies have shown that women who do three or more hours of aerobic activity a week can reduce their risk. It has also been shown that being obese can increase your risk. Increasingly, fat is being viewed by the medical profession as a separate, endocrinologic organ that can have important health implications. Read more about what you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.
Unfortunately, there is no good answer to this question. Many breast cancer patients are women who exercise everyday, eat low-fat diets, have low cholesterol and do yoga. While a gene mutation can point to a hereditary link, many other women who do not have this gene mutation also get breast cancer.
Whether you will need chemotherapy is determined after surgery. After surgery the type of tumor is analyzed, along with its size, and whether there has been a spread to lymph nodes. It’s not possible to know before surgery whether chemotherapy will be necessary. What can be known before surgery is whether or not you can have breast conserving surgery, or whether mastectomy is the best option. Through various tests and diagnostic biopsies, a surgeon can have a clear plan of the surgical procedure that is necessary and the treatment that will follow.
Yes. Despite the recent controversy about the benefits of mammography, it still is very important to have a mammogram every year, starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
A “false positive” is when a mammogram leads to calling you back for additional scanning. For every 1,000 women having a mammogram screening, 100 are recalled for additional images, 20 of those are recommended to have a biopsy and 5 of these women are diagnosed with cancer.
Unfortunately, for women over age 50, just skipping a mammography screening every other year would miss up to 30% of cancers. Additionally, 1 out of 6 breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49. The cancers in these younger women generally grow faster and more aggressively. So a younger woman missing an annual mammogram screening can considerably increase her risk of cancer by missing the opportunity for earlier detection.
If you have additional breast cancer questions, visit our breast health page. You can also call The Breast Institute at 914.242.7640.