Questions and Answers

I have a family history of breast cancer and I just found a lump on my breast. What should I do?

Anyone may develop breast cancer; therefore, frequent self breast exams and annual mammograms are important tools to help detect breast cancer early. When you notice changes in your breasts, such as a new lump, you should first talk to your primary care provider, who will likely order breast imaging studies for evaluation. If the lesion looks suspicious, it will be biopsied. Although most breast lumps are benign, having a family history of breast cancer puts you at an increased risk of developing the disease in your lifetime. The definitive treatment for breast cancer is surgery. If you have a diagnosis of breast cancer, you will need to consult with a breast surgeon who will discuss further treatment options with you.

What is a breast surgeon?

A breast surgeon has a strong commitment to the evaluation and care of patients with diseases of the breast and breast cancer. Many surgeons have expertise in breast cancer care, both with and without fellowship training. Membership in the American Society of Breast Surgeons implies that a physician has a special interest in breast care. These surgeons have made a commitment to providing the very highest quality of care.

If I want to find information about breast disease on the Internet, where should I go?

Breast surgeons recommend this award-winning website, which offers reliable and evidence-based resources provided by the American Society of Breast Surgeons. The information is written by expert breast surgeons and providers who are passionate about caring for breast patients. At NWSS, we can provide you with additional local resources, as well. A preoperative education class for breast cancer patients is coming soon!

What is lymphedma?

Lymphedema is a condition that causes lymphatic channels to become dilated and congested, leading to swelling and discomfort and occasionally redness of the breasts and/or arms as a result of lymphatic/lymph node surgery or radiation treatment. Lymphedema of the breast and/or upper extremities is relatively common after breast cancer treatment. Lymphedema specialists/physical therapists are available in our local area. We’re happy to provide referrals and recommendations.

What role do medical oncologists and radiation oncologists play in my breast cancer treatment?

Breast cancer treatment involves multimodality, meaning patients are often cared for by many providers and receive multiple kinds of treatment. Nonsurgical cancer doctors (medical and radiation oncologists) provide treatment recommendations for chemotherapy, targeted immunotherapy and radiation therapy for your specific cancer.

How do patient navigators benefit breast cancer patients?

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be shocking and stressful. Our patient navigators are knowledgeable about all aspects of breast cancer care and are ready to hold your hand every step of the way by coordinating your care to make your journey as smooth as possible. Learn more here.

What is oncoplastic breast surgery?

Our breast surgeons use this high-quality technique to achieve both optimal oncologic and aesthetic result for the treatment of your breast cancer. Our breast surgeons have technical expertise with special training in oncoplastic breast surgery. For more information, watch this video by the School of Oncoplastic Surgery. To see postoperative photos of “hidden incision” surgeries, click here.

What is a tumor board? How do patients benefit from a tumor board?

Breast cancer treatment involves multiple disciplines in surgery and medicine to coordinate and provide comprehensive treatment. A breast tumor board is a “meeting of the minds” that takes place 3-4 times per month for all specialists to discuss state-of-the-art treatment recommendations for our patients. Learn more here.

How do patients benefit from the BCCP program?

There are many resources available in our community to help you through your breast cancer treatment. The Oregon Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP), Komen Treatment Access Program and Oregon Cancer Foundation are available to help. If you are uninsured or have low income, we will help you get the resource you need. Watch this video of one of our breast cancer survivors who benefited from the BCCP program.

What is Oregon Cancer Alliance?

Oregon Cancer Alliance (OCA) is a network of specialty clinics in Lane County that work together to provide coordinated care, making it easier for oncology patients to navigate cancer treatment. NWSS is a proud member of the OCA and believes strongly in high-quality surgical care. The quality of cancer care is benchmarked by the OCA and other national surgical and medical outcome registries. As a result, our cancer patients receive state-of-the-art, coordinated and comprehensive treatment, right here at home. We also provide a pathway for cancer patients coming from out of town and we invite patients who live in other places of Oregon to consider choosing the OCA for coordinated, professional and exceptional care and treatment. Watch this video to learn more about OCA, then contact us.

How quickly do I need to have surgery?

The breast care team at NWSS provides all breast cancer patients with timely and expedited surgical treatment. Our goal is to perform your surgical treatment within 1-2 months of your diagnosis, unless you are recommended to have chemotherapy prior to surgery. Our registered nurse patient navigators will coordinate all aspects of your treatment.

What are my chances of surviving breast cancer?

Prognosis depends on tumor size, lymph node involvement and whether cancer has metastasized to other areas of your body. With early diagnosis and treatment, our goal is give our patients the best chance of survival. Your breast surgeon and oncologists will discuss your prognosis with you.

Do you recommend removing both breasts as a preventative measure if there is a family history of breast cancer?

Many patients decide to have both breasts removed. There is no evidence that contralateral prophylactic mastectomy would increase survival. Patients who choose a lumpectomy have the same survival rate, compared to those who choose to have a mastectomy. Recent studies suggest that the recurrence rate of contralateral breast cancer is 3% over 5 years and 6% over 10 years following a breast cancer diagnosis. The American Society of Breast Surgeons does not endorse contralateral prophylactic mastectomy, except for patients with a genetic mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer.

Do you recommend annual mammograms for all age groups or only for women over the age of 40?

The current recommendation is as follows: Women who are 40 years old should talk with their primary care provider about mammographic screening. Once a woman turns 45, it is recommended that she has a mammogram every year. Patients with a genetic predisposition for breast cancer should start screening at a younger age.

What is a fibroadenoma?

Fibroadenoma is a benign tumor that is commonly found in women. We encourage you to discuss the indication for removal of these tumors with your breast surgeon. Our breast surgeons provide comprehensive breast care for all breast conditions, disease and cancer. We will guide you through the workup and treatment for any breast condition.