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What is Breast Cancer?

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. How can I tell if I have breast cancer?
  • A. The most common symptom found by women is a lump in the breast, armpit or chest area. Most lumps are not cancerous, but you can't tell whether a lump is cancer just by the way it feels. Consult your doctor immediately to have it checked. For more information on how to check for breast cancer, refer to our page Look, Feel, Compare or download our booklet.
  • Q. If breast cancer is detected early is it "curable"?
  • A. Early detection can save lives. The earlier the cancer is detected, the more treatment options you will have and the greater your chance of a full recovery.
  • Q. If my grandmother or mother had breast cancer, will I get it too?
  • A. Having a family history of breast cancer is only one risk factor for the disease, and having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop the disease, or that you have inherited a genetic risk of breast cancer. Only 5 to 10% of all breast cancer cases are caused by an inherited genetic mutation. If you have a direct family history of breast cancer, you can undergo a genetic screening and counselling at the Hong Kong Hereditary Breast Cancer Family Registry to assess your risk.
  • Q. If I have a high-fat diet, am I more likely to develop breast cancer?
  • A. Although there is no evidence to show that a high-fat diet increases the risk of developing breast cancer, one should avoid a high-fat diet and eat healthily as being overweight post-menopause increases a woman's risk of having breast cancer by 50%.
  • Q. What are my chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer?
  • A. In Hong Kong, it is estimated that 1 in 17 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It does not mean that at any given point, one in every 17 women has breast cancer, rather, it is an accumulative risk which means that if all women lived to be 75, one in 17 would develop the disease sometime during her life. The good news is that on the flip side, 16 out of 17 people will never get breast cancer however the number of cases is on the rise. In the last 12 years, the total number of breast cancer cases has risen dramatically; up about 76% (3,524 cases were diagnosed in 2013 and only 1,997 in 2001). (HK Breast Cancer Foundation statistics)
  • Q. There is a lump in my breast, is it cancerous?
  • A. Not all breast lumps are cancerous. In general, 90% of lumps are caused by benign (non-cancerous) changes in the breast. This percentage tends to fluctuate with age. For young women, more than 90% of breast lumps are benign. As a woman ages, her risk of breast cancer increases. The percentage of benign breast lumps in older women may be much lower than in younger women. It is still important for women to be alert to signs of breast cancer, and report any breast abnormalities to their doctor.
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