Ask the Doctor

 

I heard that standing too close
to a microwave when it is operating
can cause breast cancer.
Is this true?

Answer: There is no science behind the microwave myth.  High doses of radiation, from nuclear explosions have been associated with breast cancer but to this date, nothing on microwaves.

 

 

 

How is MRI used in the detection of breast cancer?

Answer: MRI has been used for many years to detect breast cancer. While a very sensitive tool for finding cancer, it is not accepted as a screening tool for the general population primarily because it detects a high number of benign abnormalities that mimic cancer. This can lead to a large number of additional diagnostic studies, including biopsies, for abnormalities that pose no harm to the patient. For women who are at significantly greater than normal risk for breast cancer due to family history, a gene mutation, or other risk factor, MRI is deemed an acceptable screening tool (in addition to but not in place of mammography). Even these women must weigh the benefits of MRI’s sensitivity against the high number of false positive MRI findings.

MRI can also be useful as a problem solving tool, when mammography and ultrasound don’t adequately assess a possible breast abnormality.

Some clinicians advocate the use of MRI to determine the extent of disease in patients diagnosed with breast cancer by other means. In other words, a mammogram may show one breast cancer in a patient, but the MRI may show additional sites of cancer that could change how the surgeon or oncologist treats the disease. This practice is not uniformly accepted because it hasn’t convincingly been shown to reduce breast cancer death.

 

Are there any natural remedies or alternative therapies that help to cure or prevent breast cancer?

Answer: There are no proven natural cures or natural preventatives for breast cancer. That being said, there are many patients who seek alternative therapies through natural remedies who swear by their results. My advice to all my patients is to live a healthy life style. Also, eat a well-balanced diet, seek your ideal weight and avoid fatty foods which promote estrogen production that we know is associated with a higher risk from breast cancer.

How is ultrasound used in the detection of breast cancer?

Answer: Ultrasound is almost exclusively used as a diagnostic tool to perform a targeted study, meaning to evaluate a specific location in the breast based on an abnormality seen by mammogram or MRI. It can also be used to assess a site of pain or a palpable lump. It is an excellent tool for differentiating solid masses from fluid filled cysts, something that a mammogram can’t do. it is also the preferred tool for image guided biopsy, as it is far easier to use ultrasound than either MRI or mammogram when sampling tissue.

I heard that some ingredients in deodorant/antiperspirant can cause breast cancer. Is this true?

Answer: There are no ingredients in deodorant or antiperspirants that cause breast cancer. People can become allergic to aluminum chlorhydrate which can cause painful inflammation of glands in the skin of the under arm. But there has been no scientific studies to show a link to breast cancer.

If a woman develops breast cancer while in her child bearing years, will the cancer affect her fertility?

Answer: Breast cancer in itself does not affect fertilityIf a patient requires chemotherapy, however, this may stop ovulation in some but not all cases. If there is any chance that the cancer has metastasized then pregnancy is not advised. The hormones which a woman’s body develops to support a pregnancy may also promote growth of the cancer and help the cancer spread.

If I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, (age 67) and accept treatment suggested, but exclude any form of chemotherapy, what difference would it make? In other words, what outcome can be expected IN GENERAL?

Answer: The basis of treatment for inflammatory breast cancer is chemotherapy.  Most cases also require radiation therapy.  Surgery is secondary but if patients respond to chemotherapy then a mastectomy is performed.  The risk of metastatic spread with inflammatory cancer is very high and that is why chemotherapy is so important in treating this aggressive disease.  With today’s treatment regimens we see much better results with inflammatory breast cancer.

How often should I perform breast self-exam and at what age should they start?

Answer: Breast exams should be performed once a month. The self-exam should be done the week after a woman’s period, since this is when the breast will be least swollen. Post-menopausal women should perform their self-exam the same time each month.

Exams should start as soon as the breasts are fully developed after adolescence. This will promote a good lifetime habit and allow women to become acquainted with their own breasts. If any changes occur or lumps develop they can be addressed early.

I have had breast cancer, what are my chances of getting it again?

Answer: Since you have had breast cancer, your risk of developing another new breast cancer, either in the original breast or the opposite breast, is higher. All women have a 13% chance of developing breast cancer in their life time. If you have a ductal carcinoma, either invasive or non-invasive, the risk goes up to 18%. If you have a lobular carcinoma the risk can be as high as 28% for developing a new breast cancer. Finally, if you have a BRCA gene deletion, which fortunately only occurs in 5% of women who have breast cancer, your risk can be as high as 87%. The highest risk for a new cancer is in the first several years after the initial cancer presents itself. Every year thereafter, the risk decreases.

Medications like Tamoxifen will decrease the risk of a recurrence by 2% from the percentages shown here. But Tamoxifen does not give any survival benefit for those women who take it to prevent a future cancer.

This high risk is why it is so important for women who have had a breast cancer to be followed closely by somebody who is an expert at detecting breast cancers, so if one occurs, hopefully it will be detected early.

I always tell my patients that we will have a hair trigger when it comes to new lumps of mammogram findings. If a small group of calcifications appears on their mammogram which may have been watched in the general public, in a case where a woman has had a previous cancer, it should be biopsied sooner rather than later. New lumps should also always be sampled.

If you carry your cell phone in your bra can it cause breast cancer?

Answer: I am not aware of any proven adverse health risk of carrying a cell phone in your bra.