Breast Cancer 101: Five Surprising Facts

Since my breast cancer diagnosis, I’ve spent countless hours researching, talking with survivors, and asking questions about breast cancer. Throughout this learning process, I’ve been amazed to discover that many of my initial assumptions about breast cancer were wrong. Read along to see which one (if any) of the following True or False statements comes as a surprise to you.

If there’s an area of concern on your mammogram, you most likely have breast cancer. True or False?

FALSE.

The majority of cases requiring follow ups do not result in a diagnosis of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, less than 10% of women called back for additional screening after a mammogram are found to have cancer. Hooray!

The term ‘breast cancer’ refers to just one type of breast cancer. True or False?

FALSE.

According to Breastcancer.org there are at least 15 different types of breast cancer. In other words, contrary to what your drill sergeant told you at Basic Training, you are a special snowflake and so is your cancer.

What’s more – beyond the many different types of breast cancer, there are also different Stages, Tumor Grades, Tumor Sizes, Hormone Receptors, Molecular Sub-Types and Proliferation Rates. Yes, it’s a lot to take in -is your brain hurting yet? Mine is! Read more about the various factors affecting prognosis and treatment including lymph node status and HER2 status  on the Susan G. Komen website.

If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, chemotherapy is always inevitable. True or False?

FALSE.

What constitutes the right treatment regimen for any given person has everything to do with their diagnosis and the factors affecting prognosis. In some cases, an Oncotype DX test may be helpful in determining whether chemotherapy is right for you. Talk with your doctor about what options are best and, when in doubt, get a second opinion.

Most people diagnosed with breast cancer have a first-degree family member with breast cancer. True or False?

FALSE.

Only about 13 percent of women diagnosed have a first-degree relative with breast cancer and only 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to an inherited gene.

Everyone diagnosed with breast cancer must have all lymph nodes removed. True or False?

FALSE.

Most breast cancer patients have a choice to make between axillary lymph node biopsy and sentinel lymph node biopsy. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is the “standard of care” in most cases. Forbes contributing writer, Elaine Schattner, does a great job discussing the differences between sentinel lymph node biopsy and axillary node biopsy in her article,  “Before Breast Cancer Surgery, A Question Every Patient Should Ask Her Surgeon.”

Ok reader, now it’s your turn – did any of the facts shared above surprise you? What is the most surprising thing you’ve ever learned about breast cancer? Share your feedback in the comment section below.

Additional Reading

Resources Referenced in This Post

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Yes. We’ve all been there.

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