Q1. Is it necessary to visit a doctor if I don’t feel a lump?
A. It is certainly important to see a health professional when you feel a lump, however, even when you feel no lumps it is also important to have a doctor examine your breasts, and to have regular mammograms.
Q2. Are all breast lumps cancerous?
A. Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but only your doctor can help you obtain the tests that determine ‘for sure’. The purpose of practicing regular breast self-exams is to know what is “normal” for you. Report any changes to your doctor promptly. Remember the chances of survival when breast cancer is found in later stages are less than 20%!
Q3. If breast cancer does not run in my family, do I still need to worry about having it?
A. Every woman is at risk of developing breast cancer, and that risk increases with age. In fact, more than 80% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women who do not have breast cancer in their family.
Q4. Does being diagnosed with breast cancer mean I will die?
A. The sooner a cancer is detected, the easier it will be to treat it. The only way to detect cancer early is by regular screening (Clinical breast exam, Mammogram) according to the guidelines.
Q5. Does a low fat diet prevent breast cancer?
A. Women who decrease their body fat and exercise regularly, more than three hours per week, can decrease their risk of breast cancer by approximately 20%. This may be due to an overall decrease in circulating estradiol [a type of estrogen] that may in turn decrease the stimulation to cells that are potentially pre-cancerous. If a low-fat diet can help decrease a woman's overall body fat, it may indirectly help to decrease her risk.
Q6. I have been having pain in my left armpit—I can't feel anything on the outside, but I feel that there is something that I cannot palpate. Is this something I should see my gynecologist or my primary care doctor about?
A. It's understandable to be confused about breast self-exam, but what's most important is that you're doing it. Because of the fact that you have found something that doesn't feel exactly correct to you, it’s worth seeing your gynecologist or primary care physician for a good clinical breast exam. You may be feeling tenderness within your breast or armpit area that has a perfectly rational explanation, but using your own sense that something isn't exactly right to guide you to your gynecologist is certainly appropriate.
Q7. Is it true that pressure on the breast from a mammogram can spread small tumors?
A. No. The compression is necessary to get the X-ray image, and the compression does not cause any abnormalities of the breast. Some bruising may occur occasionally, but it has not been shown to cause or spread breast cancer.
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