Here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions by women like you.
*The question and answer section below is not intended to be a replacement for conversations with your physician and other healthcare providers. Please contact your physician for further information.
Click on the questions to reveal the answer.
Q. What happens when you get a mammogram?
A. A mammogram is a radiological procedure that uses compression from different angles to look at the breast tissue to see if there are any abnormalities.
Q. Does a mammogram hurt?
A. Although there may be some discomfort during compression, it shouldn’t be painful. The compression that is used lasts only about 45 seconds and a standard screening mammogram is only for images, so it’s not a long compression. However, if you are a person that tends to be sensitive, an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, prior to having a mammogram helps to minimize that sensitivity. Scheduling a mammogram about a week after your period starts also minimizes sensitivity.
Q. Is there ever going to be any type of procedure that feels better than a mammogram?
A. Mammogram is our mainstay for detection of breast cancer. Ultrasound and MRI are used, but they are not the first line imaging that is preferred.
Q. In planning to schedule a mammogram, is there anything specific to consider?
A. A facility offering digital mammogram as opposed to analog, offers advantages in several ways. The resolution of the image is so much better, earlier detection is more likely than on the previous analog films. In addition the radiologists are able to manipulate and adjust the images so that if something abnormal appears, the computer can be used to get better or different images.
Q. When it comes to breast cancer, does family history really matter?
A. It does. However, most women with breast cancer actually never had a family history, or certainly not a high-risk family history for breast cancer.
Q. What kind of things put a woman at high risk?
A. Starting your period early in life, late menopause, having children late or not at all can put you at higher risk.
Q. Is there anything a woman can do now to start reducing her risk?
A. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise, eat a balanced, nutritious diet, avoid alcohol, don’t smoke, or quit smoking, see your healthcare provider for clinical breast exams, and yearly mammograms, as directed.
Treatment Options for Breast Cancer
Q. If I’m diagnosed with breast cancer, what treatment options are out there for me?
A. Breast cancer treatment for each patient is customized, but the main treatment options would be some form of surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiation.
Q. A lot of people are familiar with chemotherapy and radiation, but what’s the difference?
A. Chemotherapy is a treatment that treats the whole body. It is typically given intravenously, over a very long period of time. Radiation is a local treatment to help prevent the cancer from coming back to the area where it was originally. It is given either with a device inside the tissue or externally from a beam.
Q. Does a patient only have one form of treatment or can they have a combination?
A. Most people get a combination of treatments. There are many different permutations on treatment options. It’s something to discuss with the surgeons and care team, but, most of the time, more than one of these modalities will be part of the treatment.
Q. If surgery is the option, how long should you take to make that type of decision?
A: Although breast cancer is not an emergency; it is something that’s urgent. Take the time to weigh your options and make a decision that’s comfortable for you. Putting off a decision could increase your anxiety and stress and could potentially change the outcome.
North Fulton Breast Program
Q. When it comes to a breast health team, who’s involved with that?
A. There are a lot of people involved: surgeons, medical oncologists, internists, radiation doctors, radiologists and pathologists, and an entire team at the hospital if you are having surgery or a more extensive procedure.
Q. I understand that some programs have nurse navigators. What does that person do?
A. The role of the nurse navigator is to be a resource for the patient. They help schedule procedures, answer questions, hold hands, and really be an advocate and a liaison between the physicians and the patient to make the whole process run smoother.
Q. If someone comes in for a mammogram or a procedure, how quickly will they receive their results?
A. At North Fulton Hospital, our pathology can be turned around in 24 to 48 hours.
Q. I know about Mammograms, but what other types of diagnostic tools or procedures are out there for women?
A. If a patient has been diagnosed with breast cancer or are in the process of being diagnosed, ultrasound and MRI are tools that we use for biopsies.
Q. What other things would be important in researching breast programs?
A. A breast program that has a comprehensive team that collaborates and works together well. This ensures that all aspects of the care are covered and that the care is managed in an efficient and timely fashion.
Common Myths About Breast Cancer
Q. Do breast implants impact you in any way when it comes to a potential breast cancer risk?
A. Breast implants don’t intrinsically increase your risk. They can cause some issues with mammograms and other imaging. If they leak, they can cause palpable abnormalities, and they can cause breast tissue to be obscured on the mammogram.
Q. Does a breast reduction impact you in any way when it comes to a potential breast cancer risk?
A. Breast reduction doesn’t increase risk. It can cause scar tissue that can cause some abnormalities to appear on the mammogram.
Q. Do underwire bras impact you in any way when it comes to a potential breast cancer risk?
A. There have been studies, but this has never been proven to be a factor.
Q. There’s a lot of information out there about breast cancer, what can and can’t cause breast cancer. What are some credible locations that women can go to for the best information?
A. The American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, National Institute of Health, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and breastcancer.org, are websites to consider.