Frequently Asked Questions

Many patients often have similar questions. We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions here.

    Q: Do you treat breast conditions that are not cancerous?

    A: Yes. We treat all types of benign breast conditions in addition to breast cancer.

    Return to top

    Q: How common is breast cancer?

    A: Breast cancer is the second-deadliest cancer among Texas women and all American women (the first is lung cancer). One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.

    Other than adopting a healthier lifestyle, early detection with regular mammograms remains the single most effective way for combating the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, women diagnosed with breast cancer that has not spread outside the breast have a higher survival rate. Steady declines in breast cancer mortality among women since 1989 have been attributed to a combination of early detection and improvements in treatment.

    Return to top

    Q: Can I prevent breast cancer?

    A: Breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, but women can take steps to decrease risk and/or improve early detection of the disease. Screening recommendations are for women with average risk. It is important to discuss with a physician your individual risk factors, including age, menopausal status, and family history to determine your screening needs. Regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy body weight may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

    Return to top

    Q: How do I screen for breast cancer and how often?

    A: Screening recommendations are for women with average risk. It is important to discuss with a physician your individual risk factors, including age, menopausal status, and family history to determine your screening needs. Women should check their breasts monthly and report any changes to their physician immediately.

    Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss genetic testing with their physicians. If genetic tests indicate a woman is BRCA-positive, there are a number of risk reduction strategies to discuss with her physician. Women with a first degree relative who had breast cancer before age 50 should begin receiving mammograms 10 years before reaching that relative’s age at diagnosis.

    Return to top

    Q: What should I do if I feel a lump or am experiencing unusual symptoms?

    A: You know better than anyone if you are experiencing a change in your breast. Not all symptoms are necessarily breast cancer, but you should contact your physician immediately if you feel a lump in the breast or notice any of the following symptoms.

    • Change in breast size or shape
    • Thickening of breast or underarm
    • Nipple retraction or nipple discharge
    • Dimpled skin near the breast
    • Tenderness
    • Pain in breast or nipple
    • A lump under the arm or around collarbone
    • Irritation, redness, scaliness, or swelling on the breast, nipple, or skin near the nipple

    Return to top

    Q: What is breast density and why does it matter?

    A: Dense breasts have less fatty tissue compared to other breasts. Dense breasts have more gland tissue that makes and drains milk and supportive tissue (also called stroma) that surrounds the gland. Breast density can be inherited, so if your mother has dense breasts, it's likely you will, too. Research indicates that dense breasts:

    • Can be six times more likely to develop cancer
    • Can make it more difficult for mammograms to detect breast cancer

    If you have dense breasts, you can make lifestyle choices to lower your breast cancer risk including:

    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Exercise regularly
    • Limit alcohol
    • Eat nutritious food
    • Don’t smoke

    If you have dense breasts, you and your doctor should develop a screening plan tailored for you, and may include using 3-D mammography or additional screening such as breast MRI or ultrasound.

    Return to top

    Q: What should I expect at my initial appointment?

    A: We want to make your first visit a smooth, comfortable experience. Several days before your appointment, you’ll receive a packet of information with more details about where we’re located and what you need to bring with you.

    We ask that you arrive about 30 minutes early to complete some routine paperwork. If you prefer, you can complete most forms in advance and bring them with you.

    Plan to spend some with us at your first appointment. It will be comprehensive and may include:

    • A physical exam performed by your physician
    • Additional testing to help us outline your treatment plan
    • Referrals to other physicians such as a medical or radiation oncologist
    • Meeting with a financial counselor to discuss your insurance coverage benefits
    • Meetings with support services such as a pharmacist or patient navigator

    We’ll allow as much time as you need to answer your questions, explain your breast condition and treatment options, and outline the next steps. Depending on your breast disease, your treatment may not begin at your first appointment.

    Good communication between you and your medical team is essential. You’re the expert on your body. Make sure you bring up any concerns to your doctor and healthcare team. Your first appointment is also the ideal time to bring a list of questions you created in advance.

    We encourage you to bring a family member or friend to your appointment to participate in the discussion. They may hear something you missed, think of different questions to ask, or take notes.

    When you finish your first appointment, step back and take a deep breath. You’ve taken a significant step and have a plan to move forward.

    Return to top

    Q: Who will manage my care?

    A: Texas Breast Specialists will help you navigate every aspect of your care. The integrated care team surrounds you and forms a hub of activity and support. Board certified physicians and advanced practice providers with special training in breast health will manage your care.

    If you have breast cancer, your care team may include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and others. With emphasis on collaboration, everyone on your team is united to guide you through your treatment experience.

    Return to top

    Q: What insurance plans do you take?

    A: Texas Breast Specialists participates in most health insurance plans, Medicare, Medicaid, and selected Health Insurance Marketplace plans. This list reflects some of the plans we accept.

    Not all plans are available at all locations, so it's important to call your insurance company to confirm if your plan is available at Texas Breast Specialists centers in your area. Our financial counselors will verify your coverage prior to your appointment.

    If you do not see your health insurance plan listed, please call your Texas Breast Specialists for additional information. New insurance plans are being added all the time.

    Return to top

    Q: What are the treatment options for breast cancer?

    A: Treatment options can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, proton therapy, targeted therapy, bone-modifying therapy, or hormone therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.

    Return to top

    Q: What is the process for deciding my treatment?

    A: Choosing a treatment plan is a significant step in your cancer journey. Your values and wishes are paramount in the treatment decision-making process. The decisions about your treatment will be made jointly with you, your doctor, and your care team.

    Your doctor and care team will develop a treatment plan together with you. They will discuss what’s important to you based on your values and desires and outline expected outcomes of treatment choices that may be available to you. Having an open and frank conversation is key to ensuring that your treatment plan meets your goals as the patient. These conversations and the choices you make can be difficult, but your care team is here to give you information and help you work through those decisions.

    Return to top

    Q: What procedures can be performed in the office?

    A: We offer a comprehensive group of procedures and services that can be performed in the office or in an outpatient setting. Specific procedures vary by individual Texas Breast Specialists location.

    Return to top

    Q: What should I do if I’m experiencing side effects from a procedure or treatment?

    A: We urge you to call us any time you have questions or experience new symptoms. You’ll receive personalized care from a team that’s familiar with your medical history and treatment plan. With 24/7 access, you can get the help you need and possibly avoid an emergency room or urgent care visit. If you can be treated early, we may be able to prevent complications.

    It’s important to call Texas Breast Specialists before going to the emergency room or urgent care clinic, even if it is after hours. We may be able to assist in managing symptoms, avoid an emergency room visit, and prevent complications. Please find your local center for after hours information and phone numbers.

    Return to top

    Q: Is breast cancer inherited?

    A: While breast cancer is not inherited, you can inherit a higher risk for developing it. If you have a genetic risk of cancer, it means you have specific genetic mutation that increases your risk for cancer. However, it doesn’t mean you will develop cancer.

    You received a copy of every gene from both of your parents and can receive a mutated or altered gene from either of them. You have a hereditary risk of cancer if certain gene mutations or changes are passed from your parents to you. Only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are from inherited gene mutations. Learn more about hereditary cancer syndromes.

    Return to top

    Q: Do you offer genetic testing?

    A: Yes, our Genetic Risk Evaluation and Testing Program can identify if you have an increased risk for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer. While a person cannot inherit cancer, they can inherit a higher risk for developing it.

    We are a part of Texas Oncology, and many of its locations provide an in-depth assessment for people with a strong personal or family history of cancer. While only five to 10 percent of cancers are from inherited gene mutations, genetic testing provides early detection and the opportunity to not only reduce the risk of cancer, but to save lives.

    Our oncologists and genetic counselors have advanced training in genetic risk evaluation and testing. They can determine if you are a candidate and provide individualized analysis to identify your risk for hereditary cancer syndromes. Once testing is completed, we provide a comprehensive evaluation with recommendations and assistance with follow-up care.

    If you have a family history of breast cancer, you should discuss genetic testing with their physicians. Mutations in the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes and increases the risk for breast, ovarian, and other cancers. If genetic tests indicate you are BRCA-positive, there are a number of risk reduction strategies to discuss with your physician.

    Return to top