Breast Cancer
FAQs
​​What is the chance of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40’s? 
About 1 out of 69 women in their 40’s will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

The chances of women getting breast cancer increase as they age. Only a small percentage of women get diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 30. 

The risk of developing breast cancer moderately increases by the age of 30-40, with a continuous and steady increase from the age of 40 to the age of 75. No abrupt changes occur at age 50. 

For a woman in her 40s, the chance of having breast cancer detected by mammography in any given year averages 2.18 in 1000 or 1 in 459. The decrease in breast cancer occurrence among women above 79 years of age is likely due to a combination of reasons that could lead to death, alongside with decreased detection due to declining screening rates. 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no special identifiable risk factors. Screening only women with risk factors will lead to missing the vast majority of women who will develop breast cancer.


If breast cancer is present, will it be detected by a mammography screening? 
Mammography detects most, but not all, breast cancers. Mammographic sensitivity, defined as the fraction of breast cancers that are detected in women who have breast cancer, depends on a variety of factors, but especially on how dense the breast tissue is.

In radiology, breast density could fall into one of four categories:
  1. Fatty;
  2. Minimal scattered fibroglandular density;
  3. Heterogeneously dense; 
  4. Extremely dense.
In the first two categories of breast density, 85 to 90% of breast cancers are easily identified by mammography. In the latter two categories, collectively termed “dense”, only 30 to 55% of breast cancers can be detected via digital mammography.

Digital mammography produces better tissue contrast, improving cancer detection in dense tissue up to 70%. Over half of women in their 40’s have dense tissue, as do 40% of women in their 50’s, and 25% of women over the age of 60.

As the incidence of breast cancer increases and its density decreases with age, the detection sensitivity of mammography increases. Although dense tissue is more common in younger women, fatty and dense breasts can be found in some women of all ages. The density of breast tissue can only be determined by imaging such as mammography and cannot be determined by a woman’s age or a physical exam.

Is there any test other than mammography that can detect breast cancer in early stages? 
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and other nuclear techniques, can show small breast cancers, but studies have not yet proven that these techniques reduce mortality rates from breast cancer.
 
There are some cancers that can be seen only on mammography. MRI and ultrasound can be used to supplement, but not replace, mammographic screening in some groups of women at increased risk of breast cancer. In women with dense breasts, adding an ultrasound screening provides an absolute increase of 28% in detection of node-negative breast cancer.

For women at high risk of breast cancer, MRI screenings improve detection of early breast cancer by 56% compared to mammography and ultrasound combined. Such increases in sensitivity come with significant increases in recall rates and needle biopsies.

What is the chance of a mammogram saving the life of a woman with breast cancer? 
The overall 5-year survival rate among women with breast cancer is 89% for white women and 78% for black women. Based on the observational studies of modern mammography, there are 30 to 40% fewer deaths resulting from breast cancer among women screened with mammography than among those who do not undergo the screening.

How often should women undergo a mammography screening?
Most studies indicate that in order to achieve the greatest possible benefit from mammography, it should be performed at least every year from ages 40 to 49, and every two years for women in their 50’s and above. 

At what age should a woman stop getting regular mammograms?
There is a potential benefit to mammography as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 5 to 10 years. She can easily receive treatment if a cancer was found. 

Usually, women older than 74 years of age are not encouraged to undergo mammography.

How does mammography contribute to protecting women in their 40’s from breast cancer?
Although 85% of breast cancer cases occur in women above the age of 50, breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women in their 40's.

Concerns about the occurrence of breast cancer among women at the age of 40 are high. At this age, the probability of getting the disease is 6 times higher, and the probability of it resulting in death is 20 times higher. With such concerning rates, it is best to find the best methods of prevention and treatment.

In this case, three things are taken into consideration: the benefits of a mammography screening, its side effects, and its cost.

One of the most important benefits of a mammogram screening is the decline of mortality rates from breast cancer that it results in. Some studies have shown a 25% decline in deaths among women in their forties 8 to 10 years after undergoing a mammography screening. Moreover, most studies have shown that the decline rate of deaths among women aged 50-69 years is approximately 34%. This difference may be due to the fact that mammography screenings performed on women in their 40’s reveal, early on, some types of breast cancer whose death decline rate may take some time to show.

Another reason could be that the sensitivity of mammography is lower in younger women. Furthermore, the rate of breast cancer growth varies according to age. Also, the period of time the disease takes before symptoms appear is 1.25 years for women in their 40’s and 3.3 years for women in their 50’s. This is the more likely to be the result of the different levels of estrogen and menopause rather than age. 

What are the downsides of mammograms? 
With regard to the side effects of breast cancer mammography screenings, there are several questions to be asked. These questions revolve around the effects of radiation, the discomfort accompanying the screening procedure, and the psychological and social sequela of false positives mammograms. About 11% of mammography screening cases require further imaging and more than 9% of them end up being false positive. The number of cases that require additional procedures, including biopsies and psychological stress, may be large, especially that the screening is periodically performed. By detecting breast cancer using mammography, more ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) cases are revealed. They exceed 12% of all breast cancer cases, and 43% of the total cases discovered among women in their 40’s.

It is also important to take the cost of this screening into consideration. A mammography screening is crucial because it is the only scientific way to detect breast cancer at an early stage (years before the onset of symptoms) while it is still in a treatable condition.

Does mammogram accurately diagnose 90% of breast cancer cases? 
Mammography will not benefit all women equally. This screening has downsides that most wom​en will experience if they get regularly screened. 

These downsides include the need for additional imaging when an abnormality is suspected, or the need for biopsy for findings that may not be cancer. Moreover, there is some radiation exposure, even though the radiation dose from mammography is minimal. There is also a risk that breast cancer, even when present, will not be seen on mammography, in addition to the possibility of an overdiagnosis.

For every 1000 women who undergo a mammography screening: 
  • 80 to 100 will be recalled for additional assessment (usually in the case of abnormal mammography screenings). The additional assessment consists of more mammographic views and an ultrasound.
  • 45 to 65 of those recalled will have nothing of concern (false positive). 
  • 20 may be asked to return in six months just to be careful, with the area being screened having a less than 2% chance of being cancer.
  • 15 will be recommended to have a biopsy.
  • 2 to 5 will be found to have breast cancer (10 to 13 biopsies will not show cancer, and can also be considered false positives).


What is a breast biopsy and how does it take place?
Nearly all findings found on breast imaging can be biopsied in an office procedure called a “needle” biopsy. About 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 biopsies for calcifications seen on mammograms will prove to be cancer. About 1 in 3 biopsies of suspicious masses will prove to be cancer. 

Will taking a breast sample when there is a lump or breast changes lead to the occurrence or spread of breast cancer?
The chances of biopsy spreading the disease are very slim, and this spread is only theoretical. Modern technologies use small needles different from the ones used in the past. It is also important to keep in mind that biopsy is the only way to prove or deny the presence of the disease.

Is there a reason to worry about the radiation exposure during mammograms?
The risk of radiation exposure at age 40 or above is quite low compared to the likelihood of naturally-occurring breast cancers among women at age 40 or above. 

It is also important to note that the radiation dose women get exposed to during mammography screenings is very small. Among 100,000 women in their 40’s, there are over 200 naturally-occurring breast cancers diagnosed per year (over 150 of which will be seen on mammography), compared to fewer than 6 potentially induced over their entire lifetime by the radiation exposure from mammography. The cancers possibly induced by radiation exposure typically appear a minimum of 8 years later, and would be detected through continued mammography screening.

Can an injury (trauma) cause cancer?
This is a misconception. Bruising, bone fracture, or similar injuries are not a cause of cancer.  They may; however, be reasons to discover the disease. 

Is cancer treatment worse than cancer itself?
Often, people diagnosed with cancer do not show symptoms or experience pain. Any problems they may experience will be in relatively early stages of cancer and these symptoms tend to be mild. 

However, once treatment starts, patients begin experiencing pain. Moreover, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can cause unpleasant effects, but all these side effects disappear with the end of this potentially life-saving treatment.

Is caner contagious?
Statistics show that 50% of men and 30% of women believe that a person can get cancer through contact with a person who has cancer.
However, cancer is a non-contagious disease. 

Does stress causes cancer?
A third of people think that extreme stress can cause cancer, but research indicates that there is no direct link between a person’s mental and emotional state and cancer.
 
There is a belief that a poor mental state affects and weakens the immune system, which makes getting cancer more likely. However, recent studies confirm that environmental and genetic factors are the most important determinants of cancer. 

Do microwave ovens cause cancer?
These concerns arise from the belief that the electromagnetic waves emitted from microwave ovens can cause cancer. 

Old studies link eating microwaved food to developing cancer, but the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), an independent body, says that this research is questionable because it has not been approved by other laboratories. Furthermore, the manufacturing requirements of these ovens make the waves emitted from them in the least quantities possible.

Does living in the city increase the chance of a person getting cancer?
There is no difference in the incidence of cancer among urban areas compared to rural areas. 

Individuals living in the city are exposed to many pollutants, and individuals living in rural areas are exposed carcinogenic pesticides. However, cure rates among the urban population are greater than those among the rural population, perhaps due to access to better health care in the city.

Does cancer always kill the person who gets it?      
Many people think that cancer is a disease that cannot be cured. The truth is that many types of cancer have a high cure rate. British statistics indicate that the cure rate (without a recurrence for at least 5 years) of breast cancer is 74%, skin cancer 80%, colon cancer 40%, and cervical cancer 64%. The sooner the disease is discovered, the higher the chance of recovery. 

Does a lump in the breast mean that I have breast cancer?
This is incorrect information, but if you find a hard lump in your breasts or notice any change in the breast tissue, see your doctor immediately. That being said, 8 out of 10 lumps do not turn out to be cancer. Sometimes women tend to avoid a medical examination because they are afraid of what they might discover.

Does wearing ill-fitting bras cause breast cancer? 
There was a rumor in the United States several years ago that ill-fitting bras can lead to cancer. The reason is that they can cause pressure to the lymphatic system, which prevents it from releasing toxins. These toxins end up accumulating inside the breast, hence, causing cancer.
 
There is no scientific evidence that increasing pressure on or reducing blood supply to an organ can make its cells cancerous.

If I have breast cancer, will I lose my breasts?
A mastectomy (complete removal of the breast) is not always necessary if a woman gets cancer.  If the case was detected early, a lumpectomy (surgery to remove tumor) can be enough. Treatment would continue with radiotherapy. A mastectomy becomes necessary only if the tumor was too deep, too large, or started spreading to the rest of the breast.

Is there a link between breast cancer and breast size?
 Breast cancer has nothing to do with breast size. All women are at risk of developing breast cancer. The mammary glands, where cancer often develops, are present in all women, in the same size. The difference between one woman and another is the amount of fat surrounding those mammary glands.

Does previously having breast cancer mean I should not be receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
If you have previously had breast cancer, most doctors will advise against HRT, which is usually used to prevent or relieve menopausal symptoms. HRT treatment for women in menopause who have previously had breast cancer increases the risk of cancer recurrence. It also makes them susceptible to developing a new cancer. This is due to the effect of estrogen. 

Does the family history on the mother’s side only influence the probability of a breast cancer incidence?
The family history on the father’s side also affects the probability of developing breast cancer. In fact, the family history on both sides has an equal impact on the occurrence of cancer; however, the incidence of breast cancer in men remains lower than in women.

Do plastic containers cause breast cancer?
Plastic containers do not contain dioxin, and heat from sunlight would not be enough to cause its formation.   Moreover, plastic containers are made of materials that have been carefully tested to ensure their safety.  To ensure safety, please read the labels on plastic containers and make sure to use recyclable containers with of the following numbers on them: 1, 2, 4 or 5.

If I don’t feel pain, does it mean I don’t have cancer?
Cancer is rarely painful in its early stages. It becomes painful only if it causes pressure on a sensory nerve or spreads to the bones. In any case, many new medications now enable cancer patients to tolerate pain.

Does infertility treatment increase the risk of breast cancer?
Scientifically, none of the studies conducted, to this day, have proven that there is a link between taking fertility medications and an increased risk of breast cancer.

Can men get breast cancer?
Both women and men are at risk of developing breast cancer, but it is 100 times more common among women than men. Noteworthy, in the case of a father or brother developing breast cancer, women in the same family become at a greater risk of developing cancer themselves, as would the case be if the mother had cancer.  This requires regular, extensive periodic checks.

Do only older women develop breast cancer?
All females are at risk of developing breast cancer, but that risk increases with age. Breast cancer is more common among women aged 40 years and older (87%).

Can I prevent breast cancer?
There is no sure way to prevent cancer; however, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing it, such as:
  • Quitting smoking;
  • Avoiding exposure to direct sunlight;
  • Maintaining a balanced diet and nutritional pattern (the incidence of cancer is much lower among people who eat at least 5 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits per day, whole grains instead of refined grains and sugars. It is also lower among people who consume smaller quantities of red and processed meats and those who eat foods that help maintain a healthy weight);
  • Doing sports;
  • Early detection and seeing a doctor when any abnormal change occurs to the body.

 



Last Update : 12 August 2020 05:38 PM
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