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Breast Cancer: What You Need to Know

Five Facts About Breast Cancer

  • Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Annual mammograms are recommended for women 40 and older and for younger women with specific breast cancer risk factors.
  • Warning signs and symptoms for breast cancer can vary greatly. If you experience any changes in the breast, nipple or underarm, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
  • The most common genes associated with breast cancer risk are BRCA1 and BRCA2. 
  • For women who carry a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, the lifetime risk of breast cancer ranges from 50 to 87 percent. Women with a mutation in the BRCA2 gene may have an increased lifetime risk of breast cancer of up to 84 percent.

Patient Resources

Breast Cancer Detection

3-D Mammography

Breast imaging expert Bora Lee explains 3-D mammography, or tomosynthesis, and discusses the benefits of this breast cancer screening tool.

I Have a Lump, Now What?

Breast imaging expert Peggy Brennecke explains some of the common causes of breast lumps and what you should do if you discover something unusual.

Mammography Myths

Do you think that since you had a normal mammogram last year, you can save some time and skip this year? Mammography is detection, not prevention. Experts says just because you had a normal exam last year, that doesn’t guarantee future mammograms will be normal. Common mammogram myths like this could have a serious impact on your long-term health. Learn the truth about this lifesaving screening exam.

Breast Cancer Surgery: Ask the Expert

Dr. Lisa Jacobs

Surgical oncologist Lisa Jacobs answers common questions about mastectomies and lumpectomies.

What is the difference between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy?

A lumpectomy involves removing cancerous tissue, or tumor, from part of the breast. The procedure is sometimes referred to as breast conservation because your surgeon will work to remove the tissue with minimal effect on breast appearance.

A mastectomy refers to removal of the entire breast.

Typically, the right surgical intervention is selected based on the stage of your cancer. Talk to your doctor about which procedure is best for you.

Do I need to decide on reconstructive surgery right away?

No. Most women can pursue breast reconstruction at any point after treatment, even years after having a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

Some women prefer to go through reconstruction immediately, but others may not want to weigh their options during an already stressful time.

There are some differences in long-term cosmetic results between immediate and delayed reconstruction. It may be worthwhile to consider these options if you’re having a mastectomy and think you may want to have breast reconstruction in the future.

If I tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, do I need to have a bilateral mastectomy?

Women with a BRCA mutation have a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer, and many  do choose to have a bilateral mastectomy as a preventive measure.

Having a BRCA mutation, however, does not mean that you have to undergo a mastectomy. Close screening and surveillance by alternating between a mammogram and an MRI scan every six months is equally acceptable. If breast cancer does develop, women with a BRCA mutation are still candidates for breast-conserving therapy.

Breast Cancer Survivor: Pam Vierra

Reconstruction After Breast Cancer

Pam Vierra, a mother of three from central Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to visit Johns Hopkins for a second opinion. She tells the story about her breast cancer treatment and breast reconstruction experience with the Johns Hopkins Breast Center, and how it changed her life.

Breast Cancer Research

Weight Gain After Treatment

Breast cancer survivors with a family history of the disease, especially those treated with chemotherapy, tend to gain weight more easily than other women, perhaps putting them at greater risk of disease recurrence.

New Hope Against Difficult Form of Breast Cancer

Early data from a preliminary study show that an experimental immune drug is generally safe and well-tolerated in women with metastatic, triple-negative breast cancer.

Insight into Tamoxifen-Resistant Breast Cancers

Overexpression of a certain gene may explain why some breast cancers do not respond to tamoxifen, a widely used hormone treatment. Tinkering with this gene could one day allow scientists to increase cancer’s vulnerability.


Find a Breast Specialist

No matter where you are in your journey, the Johns Hopkins Breast Center offers you a unique program that provides ongoing evaluation, specialized treatment and support services, extensive personalized follow-up care and a large breast cancer survivor support group.