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Breast Care FAQs
Q. I have lumpy breasts. Does that make my chances of breast cancer worse?
A. Lumpy breasts, or fibroglandular breasts, do not increase your risk of breast cancer.
Q. Is a Breast Self-Examination (BSE) helpful?
A. Recently there has been some debate among medical experts about the usefulness of Breast Self- Examination (BSE), but there are still clear advantages. Although you may not be an expert in breast disease, you can be an expert about your own breasts. Breast Self-Examination is free and can be done in the privacy of your own home.
Q. I found a breast lump. What should I do?
A. Don't panic! Most lumps are benign and not cancerous. Breast lumps are very common and normally go away by the end of a menstrual cycle. However, an examination by your healthcare provider will help confirm your findings and give you advice about obtaining any possible further tests.
Q. Who should get a mammogram?
A. It is recommended that women age 30 and under who have strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer should possibly get a mammogram. Women over the age of 40 should get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years, depending on personal and family history. Women over the age of 50 should get a mammogram every year.
Q. Can I decrease my discomfort when getting my mammogram?
A. Scheduling your mammogram about a week after your menstrual period will decrease the discomfort.
Q. Can I improve the accuracy of my mammogram reading?
- Make sure you disclose relevant personal history to your technologist, such as prior breast surgery, family and personal history of breast and ovarian cancer, or recent findings in your breast prior to the mammogram.
- Bring with you previous mammograms from other institutions.
Q. What are the chances that my mammogram will show a cancer?
A. According to the American Cancer Society, only 1 to 2 mammograms out of every 1,000 will lead to the diagnosis of cancer.
Q. Can I schedule my own mammogram?
A. Yes, as long as you have a referral from your primary care physician or OB/GYN physician.
Q. Should I get genetic testing for my risk of breast cancer?
A. Talk to your doctor about your particular risk. For more information call the National Cancer Institutes cancer information service at 1-800-4-CANCER or online at www.cancer.org.
Q. I have been told my mammogram suggests I need a biopsy. What are my chances that it could show cancer?
A. 15% of suspicious lesions found by mammograms will be found to be cancerous. That means 85% are found to be benign.
Q. I have been told I need a biopsy. Is this an emergency?
- The need for a breast biopsy is not a surgical emergency. Although the emotions associated with the need for a biopsy may sometimes be overwhelming, the time between your mammogram and actual biopsy will not change your diagnosis or your chance of cure, even if cancer is diagnosed.
- 2. Your primary care provider (OB/GYN, family practitioner, or internist) will coordinate an appointment for your biopsy.
Q. What is a biopsy?
A. A biopsy is a means of getting cells from an area to have them analyzed in a laboratory for diagnosis. There are several types:
- Fine needle aspirate biopsy (FNA): a thin needle is used to draw up cells in the lump for analysis.
- Core needle biopsy: a needle is used that is big enough to remove a small cylinder of tissue for analysis.
- An incisional biopsy: a biopsy where part of a mass is extracted.
- An excisional biopsy: a biopsy where the entire lump is removed.
- Image guided biopsy: this is done when the lump is not felt.
- Computer x-ray guided biopsy, otherwise known as stereotactic, is a core needle biopsy performed using a computer to obtain the sample
- An MRI guided is a biopsy using ultrasound instead of x-ray to obtain the biopsy