Breast Cancer: 7 Most Common Questions

Breast cancer is scary, but it’s good to know what it is and how it can be treated. Like many cancers, it is preventable and if diagnosed early, can allow for a variety of treatment options.


  1. What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer commonly refers to a cancerous (malignant) tumor that starts in the cells that line the ducts and/or lobes of the breast. Breast cancer is mistakenly thought of as one disease, but it is several diseases that behave differently.


  1. What causes breast cancer?

The causes of breast cancer are not entirely clear. Studies have shown there are many risk factors for breast cancer in women, including hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase the risk of the disease.


  1. When should I begin screening for breast cancer?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women at average risk of breast cancer should be offered screening mammography starting at age 40. If they have not initiated screening in their 40s, they should begin screening mammography by no later than age 50. Women at average risk of breast cancer should have screening mammography every one or two years. Women at risk of breast cancer should continue screening until at least age 75.


  1. How often should I do a breast self-exam (BSE)?

A breast self-exam should be done once a month, 7-10 days after your menstrual cycle starts. If you’re no longer menstruating, select the same day each month. Look for a change from last month’s to this month’s exam. If you discover a persistent lump in your breast or any changes, it is very important that you see a physician immediately. Though 8 out of 10 lumps are benign, all require evaluation to confirm that they are not cancerous.


  1. How often should I go to my doctor for a check-up?

It’s important to have a physical every year. This should include a clinical breast exam and pelvic exam. If any unusual symptoms or changes in your breasts occur before your scheduled visit, make sure to give your doctor a call.


  1. What treatment options are typically available?

Breast cancer treatments have two main goals: to remove as much of the cancer as possible, and to prevent tumors from returning. Some treatments remove or destroy the disease within the breast and nearby tissues, such as lymph nodes. The treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or targeted therapy.


  1. Will my breast cancer treatment affect my ability to have a baby?

Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of the two may affect fertility. The likelihood of infertility may depend on the type of chemotherapy drugs used, the dose given and your age. You may want to consider your options for preserving fertility before starting treatment and discuss your questions and concerns with your oncologist.


Mammograms save lives

Mammograms can detect cancer long before you or your doctor can feel it. At Women’s Care, we provide high-quality, computer-aided mammograms performed at one of the Women’s Care locations. If you would like to schedule an appointment for a mammogram, contact us at our Eugene or Springfield location.