Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If my doctor tells me I have breast cancer, does that mean I’m going to die?

A: A diagnosis of breast cancer is not a death sentence. When breast cancer is found early, the survival rate is high. That is why it is so important to practice early detection methods like annual mammograms, age 40 and over.

Q: How many women develop breast cancer each year?

A: It is estimated that in 2009, 254,650 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in the United States.  Women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. More women in the United States are living with breast cancer than any other cancer (excluding skin cancer).

Q: What are the factors that put a woman at higher risk for breast cancer?

A: The two most significant risk factors are being female and getting older. The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no other known risk factors.

Q: As a Hispanic woman, should I be concerned about breast cancer?

A: More Hispanic women are diagnosed at a later stage than Caucasian, when cancer is harder to treat.

Q: Am I at risk for Breast Cancer?

A: All women are at risk of developing breast cancer. Speak to your health care provider who will talk with you about your family history and your own individual risk factors.

Q: Do men get breast cancer?

A: Yes, male breast cancer makes up about one percent of all cases of breast cancer.

Q: As an African-American woman, should I be concerned about breast cancer?

A: Yes, although the incidence of breast cancer is lower in African –American women than white women, the mortality or death rate is higher.

Q. Am I more at risk of developing breast cancer as I age?

A: Age is the number one risk factor for breast cancer. Older women are much more likely to get breast cancer than younger women. Most breast cancers (about 80%) occur in women ages 50 and older. About 5% of all breast cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40. It is recommended that women start annual mammography at age 40.

Q: Can exercise reduce my risk for breast cancer?

A: Several studies indicate that women who exercise at moderate to vigorous levels (3-4 hours per week) may reduce their risk level. 

Q: Does what I eat affect my risk of getting breast cancer?

A: What we eat affects our health and well-being. Research is suggesting that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains may play a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer.  Moderation is the key. 

Q: Is obesity a breast cancer risk factor?

A: Being overweight is linked to elevated risk, especially in older women.

Q: Does drinking alcohol increase my risk of breast cancer?

A: Some studies suggest that drinking one or more alcoholic drinks a day may increase your risk.

Q: I have family members who have had breast cancer. Should I have genetic testing?

A: Researchers have identified specific genes linked to breast cancer. Tests are available for those who choose to find out if they have inherited the genetic changes that increase risk. A doctor or genetics counselor can provide more information on the risks, benefits and consequences of genetic testing.

Q: How often should I get a mammogram?

A: If you are 40 or older you should get a mammogram every year.  If you are under 40 and have a family history of breast cancer or have other concerns about your personal risk, you should consult a trained medical professional about when to begin getting a mammogram.

Q: Why aren’t routine mammograms done on women under age 40?

A: Pre-menopausal women have dense breast tissue that can make the evaluation of mammograms less sensitive. If a breast abnormality is found during a self-exam or regular physical, an evaluation may include the use of an ultrasound and a mammogram even in women under the age of 40.

Q: What is a screening mammogram?

A: A screening mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. With a mammogram it is possible to detect micro-calcifications (tiny deposits of calcium which sometimes are a clue to the presence of breast cancer) or a tumor that cannot be felt.

Q: What if I’m uninsured and cannot afford a mammogram?

A: There are Cancer Services Partnership Programs across New York State that provide free or low cost mammography.
Call the Adelphi Statewide Hotline (800-877-8077) for information about this and other government and local assistance programs.

Q: I know someone who has breast cancer. How can I help?

A: Be there to listen, let them express their feelings. Offer specific help with household chores, meals, transportation, childcare, etc. Take your cues from them; let them tell you what they need. Let feelings be expressed. Be there.Don’t tell them what to do. Don’t avoid them. Don’t share horror stories. Don’t treat them like an invalid. Above all, don’t avoid them and don’t be surprised if they have mood swings, or seem sad – it’s normal.

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