Breast Cancer FAQs – Virginia Cancer Specialists

Breast cancer is a common and complex disease. Fortunately, breast cancer survival rates have improved, primarily because of earlier detection through screening, increased awareness, and better treatment options. All of us should have information about how to assess and reduce our own personal risk. At Virginia Cancer specialists, we offer genetic risk assessment and testing, and our physicians specialize in the treatment of women with breast cancer. Below are a few answers to some commonly asked questions:

Will a mammogram pick up my breast cancer?

Although mammography is not 100 percent sensitive, it is still our primary imaging modality for breast cancer screening. Other breast imaging, such as MRI and ultrasound, is still used, but do not replace mammography.

Can I get breast cancer if I have no family history?

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history. Lack of a family history should not keep women from getting appropriate screening or reporting a palpable mass.

Are there any lifestyle modifications that can decrease my risk for developing breast cancer?

Yes. Data suggests that maintaining an ideal body weight, participating in regular exercise, and limiting alcohol intake all play a role in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer. Weight loss as minimal as 6 pounds has been shown to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer.

What should I do if I have a strong family history of breast cancer?

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, contact your primary care physician who may refer you to a breast cancer specialist to discuss your risks in further detail. Genetic testing, such as that offered through Virginia Cancer Specialists’ genetics program, can also help educate you on your predisposition to breast cancer. Pills, such as Tamoxifen and Extemestane, have been shown to significantly reduce risk in certain patients.

Why are my two neighbors getting different treatments for their breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease. We are now able to tailor treatment more specifically to an individual’s tumor. Advances in breast cancer research have also enabled better, more personalized treatment options. Our goal at Virginia Cancer Specialists is to individualize and advance care. Please call us at 703-208-3155 for more information or to discuss our many clinical trials.

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