Breast Cancer: FAQs

Cancer is never something you want to hear about or deal with. It is sometimes too scary to even say out loud sometimes. Let Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center help relieve some of your fear by answering the most frequently asked questions about breast cancer for you.

The professional advice for this question has changed in recent years. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammography screenings for all women when they turn 45 years old. Other prominent organizations, including the Mayo Clinic and our Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center specialists, suggest you begin annual screenings at age 40. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends mammograms for women between the ages of 50 and 74 every two years. Check with your insurance to find out what well-woman checkups they will pay for.

If your radiologist finds something suspicious in your mammogram scan, he or she will order additional screenings to confirm whether you have an abnormal group of cells that has formed a tumor. Once that is confirmed, they may take a biopsy of the tissue to test whether it is cancerous (malignant) or benign. Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center will work with your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and develop an individualized cancer treatment plan for you.

When detected early, cancer survival rates are very good. The statistics are usually based on either 5-year or 10-year sets. That means the percentage of people who live at least five years or ten years after they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Keep in mind these numbers are only estimates and vary from person to person.

Stages % survive 5 years % survive 10 years
0 (in situ)-1 DCIS or <5mm 100% 95%
1 <2cm, node negative 100% 75%
2 Node positive 93% 40%
3 Any size, spread to 10+ nearby lymph nodes 72% Not available
4 Metastasis 22% 2%
Overall All States 89% 83%

Women who do regular monthly exams as recommended may notice a change in the shape or size of lump in their breast. Others have no symptoms and find out during their annual mammogram when a radiologist spots a clump of abnormal cells. Check out our Breast Cancer – Detection & Treatment Options page for more information.

Doctors have established many risk factors connected with the development of breast cancer. However, the links between these factors and women who develop breast cancer is still unclear. Besides being a woman and getting older, hormone levels seem to play a major part in the development of breast cancer, but it is not clear to what extent.

Cells become cancerous in a woman’s breast when her DNA is changed or mutated. DNA is complex molecule that carries the information that makes a living organism function. It is the chemical in our body that makes up our genes, which can tell our cells when to grow, divide or die. Sometimes these mutations are inherited. But oftentimes, your DNA is changed throughout your life, possibly through prior exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals.

While you cannot control your family history, other lifestyle choices you can control are shown to increase your risk of breast cancer, including:

  • Drinking an average of two to five alcoholic beverages daily
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Using oral contraceptives (this risk goes away over time after you stop using them)
  • Not having children or having first child after 30
  • Hormone therapy

Not all types or stages of cancer require a mastectomy. Many women who have a non-invasive tumor select the option of a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, followed by radiation treatments to help prevent recurrence of any cancer.

Because there are so many stages and types of breast cancer, the treatment options also vary. Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center offers the most comprehensive array of radiation therapy in Palmer. Check out the detailed treatment options available to you.

High doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells during cancer treatment. This radiation can also affect surrounding tissue and organs. Because of the advanced technology at Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center, the damage to surrounding tissue is greatly minimized, giving you fewer side effects. However, general side effects from radiation include fatigue and skin irritations (itching, peeling, dryness, redness) at the site of the radiation. Side effects from breast cancer radiation treatment may also include difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, breast or nipple soreness, stiff shoulder, fever and cough, and fibrosis (scarring of the lungs).

Use these links to find out more about breast cancer:

Call Your Palmer Cancer Center Today!

At Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center, our caring cancer experts are here to help you find the best possible treatment options for your breast cancer. You owe it to yourself to find out more about the breast cancer treatment options available to you in Palmer. Call us today at 907-707-1333 for a free, no obligation phone consultation. Or, reach out to us using our online message form. One of our board-certified radiation oncologists will get back with you within 24 hours and answer all of your questions about our non-surgical, non-invasive treatments. You can trust us to develop a treatment plan that will give you the best possible outcomes. Call us today.