Breast Cancer: What You Need to Know
Five Facts About Breast Cancer
- Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
- Annual mammograms are recommended for women 40 and older and younger women with specific breast cancer risk factors.
- 3-D mammography detects 27 percent more cancers than traditional mammography.
- 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.
- Only about 12 percent of breast cancers today are believed to be caused by the BRCA1 gene. The BRCA1 gene is associated with the highest risk of breast cancer. Statistically, the risk for carriers is between 40 percent and 80 percent.
One Inspiring Survivor Story
On a typical day at Johns Hopkins Medical Imaging at Green Spring Station, patients coming in for imaging tests such as MRIs, ultrasounds and mammograms have a comforting advocate available in the waiting room. Kate Pisano is a patient liaison — there to meet the needs of the patients by providing resources and support.
With Kate’s smile and cheerful attitude, it’s not obvious that recently she too was a patient sitting in the waiting room confronting her own major health challenges.
Two years ago Kate was fighting breast cancer and facing it alone as a single working mother of two teenaged sons.
Months after a painful divorce, Kate noticed a lump in her breast while getting undressed.
“I was afraid of what the lump might mean, so I waited several weeks before finally making an appointment with my doctor,” she said.
That appointment led to a mammogram followed by a biopsy. In April of 2012, Kate’s greatest fear was confirmed: She had breast cancer.
“The diagnosis was a complete surprise. I ate right, exercised and no one in my family had cancer,” said Kate.
Breast Cancer Prevention Research
Learn more about the groundbreaking breast cancer prevention research being conducted at Johns Hopkins Medicine. This research is made possible by the philanthropic support of patients and other supporters of the John Fetting Fund for Breast Cancer Prevention. Keep the momentum moving forward.
Johns Hopkins breast imaging expert Dr. Susan Harvey explains 3-D mammography, or tomosynthesis, and discusses the benefits of this breast cancer screening tool.
Want to ask a specialist directly about breast cancer prevention and treatment? Join director of breast imaging Dr. Susan Harvey and chief of breast surgery Dr. Michael Euhus on the Johns Hopkins Medicine Facebook page from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, October 28 to learn more about the disease.
Q: What are the best preventative measures I can take against breast cancer?
A: There isn't a definitive prevention method for breast cancer, but early detection is very important. Perform regular self-exams and get exams from your primary care doctor. Women over the age of 40 should receive yearly mammograms, and women with specific breast cancer risk factors (strong family history of breast cancer, mutation of BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, etc.) may need additional screening with MRI.
Q: If I tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, do I need to have a bilateral mastectomy?
A: 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 mastectomy. Close screening and surveillance by alternating between mammogram and MRI every six months is equally acceptable. If a breast cancer does develop, women with a BRCA mutation are still candidates for breast-conserving therapy.
Q: If I’ve had a mastectomy, can I have a breast cancer recurrence?
A: Undergoing a mastectomy drastically reduces your chances of breast cancer recurrence, since almost all of your breast tissue has been removed. There is a very small chance, however, that breast cancer can recur on the chest wall. Therefore, it is important to continue with self exams, to see your doctor on a regular basis for examinations and to report any breast changes to your doctor.
Three Research Findings That Could Help Save Lives
A way to prevent the spread of breast cancer may already be on pharmacy shelves. Research shows that a drug primarily used to treat HIV infection discourages metastasis when combined with another medication.
Simple Test for Recurrence
Monitoring breast cancer recurrence could be as a simple as a blood sample. Researchers hope that their experimental test could promptly alert doctors if the original cancer returns to a distant spot.
Taming Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer cells migrate by recruiting normal cells, according to new findings. Studying this mechanism further could allow scientists to shut down this process before it begins.
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.