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Breast Cancer Health Center

Christina Applegate's Breast Cancer: FAQ

Applegate's Breast Cancer Found Early; Full Recovery Expected, Says Actress' Publicist
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Once she's done with her treatment, what sort of long-term follow-up does someone need to get if they're young and they've already had breast cancer, whether it's stage 0 or stage 1?

From a breast cancer perspective, the follow-up is a little bit different depending on whether they have mastectomies or don't have mastectomies. If you've had bilateral mastectomies, then obviously you don't need mammograms. If you've had a mastectomy in one breast but you still have the other one, you need a mammogram, and if you had breast conservation, where you have both breasts, then you obviously need mammograms for both.

There's a couple of other issues that come up. No. 1, do you need to consider genetic testing? Because if you're having breast cancer in the 30s, again, it's relatively uncommon and you start thinking about do they have a family history, could they possibly have the breast cancer gene? So that would also impact how you would follow them.

The other issue is do you get breast MRIs, and that's extremely controversial.

Routine follow-up for women with breast cancer, even young women -- we'll presume they do not have the gene -- is physical exams every six months and routine mammography, and that's all.

Routine mammography being once a year?

Yes. You might do it a little bit more frequently for the first time or so but then after a year or so, no, then just back to once a year. There's no value in doing more frequent mammography than that.

Are breast cancers more aggressive in young women?

As a group, if you took 100 young women vs. 100 65-year-olds, yes. But what I always tell patients is it doesn't really matter what the whole group is; it matters what your particular tumor is. You will have more aggressive tumors in young women and fewer in older women. But the individual characteristics are really what's important to that patient.

Applegate's mother had breast cancer and cervical cancer. How does family history affect her risk?

Clearly because of the fact that her mom had breast cancer, you now have two people in the family with breast cancer. There's no family history of ovarian [cancer]?

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