The facts on 10 myths about mammograms and breast biopsy


February 25, 2016

The risk of a woman having breast cancer is 1 in 8; know the facts about screenings.


Many myths stand as barriers to women receiving mammography screening and following through with recommendations that could save their lives. Here are 10 myths we have heard over the years at the Vanderbilt Breast Center about screening mammography and biopsy, paired with the facts:


Myth 1: Breast biopsy spreads cancer.

Fact: Biopsy is necessary to make a diagnosis of breast cancer. The possibility of spreading breast cancer during a biopsy is very, very low.


Myth 2: Biopsy marking clips are “chips” that track patients’ whereabouts and stop entry through airport security.

Fact: Biopsy clips are made of metal, and have no ability to track your whereabouts. A clip in your breast is no different than a metallic dental filling; it cannot track your whereabouts.


Myth 3: Yearly mammograms are recommended for patients with bilateral mastectomies.

Fact: Yearly mammograms are recommended only if you have breast tissue. For instance, typically males do not get screened for breast cancer.


Myth 4: Patients with implants should not get screening mammograms because of significant risk of rupture.

Fact: The risk of rupture is very, very low. The risk of having a breast cancer, 1 out of 8 women, is much higher. The benefit outweighs the risk.


Myth 5: Patients with no family history of breast cancer don’t need screening mammograms.

Fact: The greatest risks of developing breast cancer are being a female and getting older. Approximately 85 percent of patients with breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease.


Myth 6: The radiation dose of cumulative screening mammograms outweighs benefits.

The cumulative dose of radiation from mammograms is far less than the cumulative dose of background radiation in nature that that we all receive. The risk of a woman having breast cancer, 1 out of 8 women, is significantly greater than the risk from mammography.


Myth 7: Pregnant patients can ignore a breast lump; they don’t get breast cancer.

Fact: A pregnant patient with a lump that persists for two weeks should have breast imaging, which usually starts with a breast ultrasound. Three percent of new breast cancer diagnoses are made in patients who are also pregnant.


Myth 8: Screening mammography is not recommended for transgender females.

Transgender women are in the process of changing from male to female. Screening for these patients is recommended if they have taken, or are currently taking, hormones; if they have taken estrogen and progestin for five years or longer; if they have a body mass index of greater than 35; or if they have a family history of breast cancer. Screening is currently not usually recommended for this group of women who have not undergone hormone therapy.


Myth 9: Dense breasts are abnormal.

The breast density is determined on your mammogram, and is a reflection of the percent of normal glandular and stromal tissue your individual breasts have. It can vary from side to side, and even from year to year. It is not abnormal to have dense breasts. Just know that if you do, it may be harder to identify small breast cancers.


Myth 10: Women who are breastfeeding should not get a mammogram or have a breast biopsy.

Breastfeeding does not preclude breast imaging or having a breast biopsy if either is needed. The risk to the baby from the mother’s milk after mammography or breast biopsy is neglibible.


This post was written by Andrea Birch, M.D., who specializes in radiology at the Vanderbilt Breast Center at One Hundred Oaks in Nashville.


The Vanderbilt Breast Center provides the most complete range of services for breast health in Middle Tennessee. The center, located at One Hundred Oaks, offers screening, imaging, genetic testing and breast cancer care. To make an appointment, call 615-322-2064.