Understanding Breast Cysts, Breast Lumps & When to See an Expert

Did you know that over 50% of women under the age of 50 have what is considered dense breast tissue, according to the International Journal of Women’s Health?

A number of women who fall into this category have what is called a “false positive” mammogram reading. While scary, dense breast tissue is more normal than you think! Also, not all cancers are treated equally.

In honor of breast cancer month, we want to debunk the myths related to dense breasts, breast cancer types and the concern surrounding breast cysts and lumps.

Myth #1: You don’t need to worry if you have denser breasts – it’s normal!

The truth is that breast density matters. Dozens of studies show that women with dense breast tissue can be 5 to 6 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with less breast tissue density. This is also supported by BreastCancer.org.

According to the International Journal of Women’s Health, over half of women under 50, and a third of women over 50, dense breast tissue.

But you can’t tell if you have dense breast tissue by feel. You need quality imaging to detect tissue patterns. Thankfully, such as Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT), also called a “3-D Mammogram” offer a better view.

“Most radiologists believe tomosynthesis is the next technical improvement in mammography,” says Dr. Avice O’Connell from UR Medicine. “It’s a better mammogram.”

breast cystsMyth #2: You only need a mammogram every 2 years.

A few years ago, mammogram guidelines were adjusted to exams every two years for women over 40. However, the Mayo Clinic quickly adjusted the guidelines to reinstate annual exams after finding that yearly screenings decrease breast cancer deaths by as much as 29 percent.

“To receive the most benefit from mammograms, which is finding breast cancers when they are small,” says Dr. Nina Watson from New York, “I recommend a screening mammogram once a year beginning at age 40.”

Myth #3: A mammogram can always detect cancer.

Just as with any other area of medical testing, there is a margin of error. The younger a woman is, the greater the chance of her receiving a false positive reading. This just means the initial scan has to be followed up with an ultrasound, additional scans or possibly a biopsy to confirm.

However, you do not need to be afraid if you fall into this category. Just follow the advice of your doctor, and if you are concerned ask questions! The more you know, the more confident you will be. Women with false-positive results have a 2% risk of developing breast cancer after the false-positive result, according to BreastCancer.org. However, when caught early, the treatment options are more varied and treatment outcomes are more favorable.

breast cystsMyth #4: All breast cancers are equally dangerous and should be treated the same.

Breast cancer is actually measured on a spectrum and there are many breast cancer varieties at the biological level. They type of breast cancer is determined by the cells in the breast that are affected. Cancer.Org outlines the 7 most common types of breast cancer here.

Some cancers grown very slowly, while others spread at an aggressive rate. However, most cancers fall somewhere in between.

“As we continue to improve our knowledge about the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer, we must focus our efforts on predicting at the cellular level which cancers will cause a woman harm during her lifetime,” says Dr. Gaelyn Scuderi from the Ackerman Cancer Center. “Then [we must] adjust our treatment plans accordingly.”

Myth #5: Men can’t get breast cancer.

While breast cancer in men is rare, it does happen. Men have breast tissue, and increased exposure to estrogen in our environment, as well as radiation, alcohol and/or a family history of breast cancer and other factors can increase a man’s risk of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, a little less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.

Most male breast cancers are diagnosed when a man discovers a lump on his chest. More severe symptoms can include bleeding from the nipple which could indicate metastasis. While the majority of male breast cancers are diagnosed in men after 50, it is a good idea for men to pay attention to changes in their breast tissue.

In 2017, almost 253,000 new cases will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. Here are some common mistaken beliefs about the disease. Many myths and misconceptions surround breast cancer, the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women.

We hope that addressing these myths will improve the rates of early detection and help women (and men) improve their chances of facing the disease head-on!

Knowledge is power. Also, if you live in the Central Florida area, our women’s health specialists offer same-day and next-day appointments and are also offering free breast exams this month, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness!

Give us a call or learn more about our DPC doctors here.

To your health!

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