Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Can You Trust Your Mammogram?

Reticence on Reconstruction continued...

Why it matters: Both procedures will alter your appearance, but in different ways. This may seem like a minor worry when you're newly diagnosed and terrified, but it's likely to become important when you're well.

What you should do: "Ask your surgeon how your breast will look, how your clothing will fit," says Amy Alderman, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Michigan. Even if you're sure you want breast-conserving surgery, you may want to consult with a plastic surgeon. Lumpectomy sometimes changes the breast more than women expect; a specialist can help you assess what might happen in your case. This is not vanity: Women who end up with extremely uneven breasts are more likely to be depressed and to worry that their cancer will return, a brand-new University of Michigan study found. Or you may want to seek out a breast surgeon who's experienced in oncoplastic techniques, which can improve the look of the breast.

Thankfully, the days of "Doctor knows best" are behind us. But that means breast cancer patients have to work with their physicians to make tough choices. To do that, women must share their fears and desires. "The doctor only knows what's on your X-ray and pathology report," says Karen Sepucha, Ph.D., a senior scientist with the Health Decision Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital: "What you care about needs to get on the table."

And you have to be the one who makes sure it does.

More Ways to Get the Answers You Need

Going for a Third Opinion
Kim Friedrich, 37
Mastic, NY

Kim Friedrich was in shock. In February 2007, her left breast had a tumor one-and-a-half times the size of a golf ball; because it was so big and aggressive, the surgeon told her she needed to have that breast removed, as well as the other as a precaution. A second doctor agreed. "I kept seeing myself on my deathbed," Friedrich says. She'd look at her two daughters and seize up with grief — would they grow up without her? While she would have done anything to live, she wasn't convinced she had to lose her breasts. Neither doctor had taken much time with her, she realized. Friedrich began to do research and talked to everyone she could. When an acquaintance raved about her breast specialist, at a cancer center a three-hour drive away, Friedrich pressed for an appointment. The mastectomy recommendations did not surprise the doctor. "That's old thinking," he told her. His advice: a course of chemotherapy (which shrank the tumor down to the size of a pea), followed by a lumpectomy and radiation. It was very tough, but Friedrich has no doubt she chose the right treatment — and doctor: "I got two quick assessments, and felt like they were thinking, 'Let's just do what's fastest and move on to the next patient.'"

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW