What are the survival rates of women who have implants as part of reconstruction after a breast cancer diagnosis? Are their survival rates impacted?

First of all, the incidence (occurrence) of breast cancer in women with implants is virtually the same for women without implants at any given age.  In fact there is some evidence that the occurrence might be slightly less for those with implants. So, having an implant even after having breast cancer will not increase the chance of recurrence or generation of a new cancer. However, in women with cosmetic implants, chance of dying from breast cancer increases 38% compared to women without implants according to a recent article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ 2013; 346:f2399). This article is open-source (free to anyone with internet). Presumably, the increased mortality associated with implants is a result of later discovery of the cancers because of the...

Tell me what to expect when examining my breasts

The most common type of screening for breast cancer is the physical examination done by your healthcare provider or by yourself.  Although self-examinations are now not recommended by the United States Preventative Services Task Force (U.S.P.S.T.F.), they can be useful when done in the right way.  It is important to know your breasts, because a certain amount of lumpiness is expected. This drawing shows where tenderness and thickening will be caused by an over-the-shoulder purse, or the shoulder strap of the seat belt, especially in women who are under 5’5” and who have a full ‘B’ cup or larger. If there is a difference in the size of your breasts, the bra wire will cause disproportional irritation of the outer edge of the larger breast.  If the one...

I have been told that I have dense breasts on my mammograms. What does that mean?

Dense breasts mean that x-rays don’t go through the tissue easily because the tissue is dense to the x-rays.  This happens when there is not much fat in the breasts.  X-rays pass through fat very easily and cause the fat to be black on the mammogram.  Because the glandular and fibrous tissue let less of the x-rays pass through the breast, this tissue looks white on the mammograms. This makes the sensitivity of the mammogram much less than when the tissue is fatty. Cancer doesn’t make fat.  Consequently, it also appears white and may easily be lost in the white breast tissue when it is small.  Trying to find cancer in dense breasts is equivalent to looking for a polar bear in a snowstorm, because you are looking for a white object in a...

What are “dense breast laws?”

Women in many states have complained to their legislators that they developed malignant lumps in their breasts that either they or their health care provider found shortly after a mammogram and after receiving a letter from their radiologist assuring them that their mammogram was normal.  No mention was made that because they had dense breasts they could not be given complete assurance that their breasts were cancer free. In response to this problem, the legislatures in five states, including the three largest states, California, Texas and New York, have passed laws that the radiologist must inform women who have dense breasts and a normal mammogram that there are other tests such as ultrasound and MRI that can find cancers that are missed by the mammogram in...

2013 NATIONAL WOMEN SURVIVORS CONVENTION

Last month I was privileged to attend the first meeting of the National Women Survivors Convention along with 1000 attendees.  These women are an extremely enthusiastic crowd who have been in the struggle of their lives for anywhere from a few months to many years. This convention was developed and organized by two extremely powerful women, Karen Shayne and Judy Pearson and many of their friends, colleagues and associates for a first time event.  The conference was held in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. These women are the vanguard of the thousands of women that will be attending this conference in the future. 80% of the women who attended had previously had breast cancer.  Many speakers including Dr. Susan Love gave talks...