Reviewed by: Dr Meron Pitcher (Chair VCOG Breast Cancer Committee), Surgeon, Western Hospital
If you're going to your doctor about a breast problem, try to be specific about your particular concern. For example, state which part of the breast is affected, how long you'vee had the problem and if it's there all the time. The following questions may help you talk with your doctor:
No. Only one out of every 10 breast changes will be due to cancer. This means that 9/10 are not cancer. However, the chance of a breast change being cancerous increases as you get older.
No. A benign lump is biologically different from a cancer and can't turn into cancer. However, it's very important to make sure the lump is benign in the first place. Visit your GP if you notice any unusual change.
Yes. A small number of women will develop new benign lumps in the future. Cysts, for example, may refill with fluid.
Yes. A biopsy should not affect your ability to breastfeed in the future. Usually, only a very small area of breast tissue is removed.
Even if you need a biopsy while you're breastfeeding, you'll probably not need to stop. Talk any questions through with your doctor, a breast care nurse or a breastfeeding consultant.
A biopsy scar is usually small and will fade over time. If you need a biopsy, check with your surgeon beforehand about the likely size and position of the scar. Sometimes rubbing vitamin E cream into the scar afterwards helps.
Women who have a strong family history, such as 2 or more first-degree relatives (mother, sister or daughter), who developed breast cancer before the age of 50, may be at a higher risk of breast cancer. If you're concerned about a family history of breast cancer, talk with your doctor, who may refer you to a Family Cancer Centre for advice. Doctors may advise women with a strong family history of breast cancer to have regular mammograms (perhaps annually) as part of a ‘surveillance' program.
If your doctor has suggested your problem is hormonal, you may wish to wait until after your next period to see if it's still there. If it is, or you're still concerned, you may wish to go back to your doctor and request some tests or get a second opinion.
Many people diagnosed with breast cancer are successfully treated. Finding breast cancer early offers the best chance of successful treatment and recovery. For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer contact your doctor or the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.