1. Surgical breast biopsies are more accurate than less invasive stereotactic breast biopsies.

Stereotactic biopsies are highly accurate and have the same excelent accracy levels as surgical breast biopsies.It is three times more accurate than other methods in diagnosing some conditions associated with early stage breast cancer, the time when it is most treatable.

2. Stereotactic breast biopsies are new unproven.

This procedure is less invasive, less painful, less scarring compared to surgical biopsy. It takes far less time to perform this nonsurgical technique and you’ll be back home the same day. The cost of this procedure is also far less expensive than other types of biopsies.Thousands of these procedures have been performed at leading medical centers throughout this country since it was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995.

3. Stereotactic breast biopsies are painful.

You will be awake during your biopsy and should have little or no discomfort. Most women report little or no pain and no scarring on the breast. Some women find that the major discomfort of the procedure is from lying on their stomach for the length of the procedure, which can be reduced by strategically placed cushions. When you receive the local anesthetic to numb the skin, you will feel a slight pin prick from the needle. You may feel some pressure when the biopsy needle is inserted.

4. You only get breast cancer if you have a family history. I don’t have a family history, so I don’t need  to worry about it.

Eighty percent to eighty-five percent of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.  Even if no one in your family has ever been diagnosed, that’s no excuse to skip your yearly mammogram. “It’s  important all women over 40 years old be screened for breast cancer,” says Mark Helvie, M.D., U-M’s director of  breast imaging.

5. I’m too young to worry about breast cancer.

Breast cancer can affect women of any age. The disease is more common in post-menopausal women, but 25 percent of  women with breast cancer are younger than 50. Younger women should have a yearly breast exam by their doctor and  begin mammographic screening at age 40. While a breast mass in a younger woman is much less likely to be cancer  than a lump in an older woman, it still needs to be checked out.  At the same time, you’re never too old to get  breast cancer. If you feel a lump – at any age – have it checked out.

6. If I’m diagnosed with breast cancer, it means I’m going to die.

Doctors are doing quite well at treating breast cancer, with 10-year survival rates currently at 85 percent to  90 percent. When caught early, up to 98 percent of women survive at least five years. Breast cancer that has  metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body, poses the greatest challenge, although women with metastatic  breast cancer often live for years with their disease.

7. I’ve made it five years as a survivor, so my breast cancer won’t return.

Breast cancer can recur at any time, although it is more likely to happen within the first five to 10 years:  75 percent of women who will get a recurrence see it within six years, and 25 percent recur in the 10 years after  that. New hormonal therapies, including tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, may be delaying recurrence, so that  the cancer is more likely to return after the woman stops taking those drugs.

8. If I have a breast lump, it’s cancer.

Most breast lumps felt are not cancer. They could by cysts or a benign condition called fibrocystic changes or  fibroadenoma. Lumps could also be pre-cancerous conditions that will need some treatment. But don’t let these facts  lull you into complacency.  All lumps should be checked thoroughly.

9. My mammogram was normal, so I don’t have to worry about breast cancer.

While mammography does catch the vast majority of breast cancers, it is only one screening tool. Women should  also have a breast exam done by their health care provider each year. If you feel a lump, always get it checked out,  even if your last mammogram was clear. Also, it’s important to get a mammogram every year. “The power of  screening comes with regular annual exams,” Helvie says. Doctors will look at previous years’ mammograms to  assess changes in the breast over time.

10. I was called back for “extra views” after my mammogram. That must mean I have cancer.

Extra views may be necessary because there’s a shadow on the image. A mass may turn out to be a benign cyst.  Most of the time, no further tests are necessary once the new images are reviewed.

11. Mammograms are painful.

Is it comfortable? No. But it doesn’t need to be excruciatingly painful, and most women will say it’s not.  Pre-menopausal women should schedule their exam for the first two weeks of their menstrual cycle, when their  breasts are less tender. If you find mammograms are painful, talk to the technologist performing it. The amount  of compression used can vary, so the technologist can ease up on the squishing if it’s unbearable. Just keep in  mind that more compression leads to a better image for the radiologist to read – so there’s a payoff to that bit  of discomfort. Don’t think having a digital mammogram will get you out of it either. Digital mammography works  the same as standard mammography by requiring compression.

12. If I need to have a surgical breast biopsy rather that a stereotactic biopsy, the surgeon might continue during that operation to remove my entire  breast without telling me.

Before the biopsy operation, you will sign an informed consent form that explains exactly what procedure will  be performed. Many years ago, surgeons would remove a suspicious mass, biopsy it on the spot and proceed to  mastectomy if it showed signs of cancer. Today, it does not happen that way. Women have many more treatment  options and a surgeon will always discuss these options with patients after a biopsy.