frequently asked questions

We receive these questions more frequently than any other questions.  Perhaps your question is listed below.  If not, and you need additional assistance in finding an answer, please do not hesitate to contact us at 401-861-HERO (4376) or

I have no health insurance.  Is there anyway I can get a mammogram?

If you live in Rhode Island, are 40 years old or more and meet income eligibility guidelines, you are eligible for the Women’s Cancer Screening Program.  You will have access to a clinical breast exam, mammogram, Pap smear, pelvic exam and any required follow-up services such as a repeat mammogram, breast ultrasound, biopsy, repeat Pap smear, and colposcopy. You can reach them by calling 401-222-4324 and for the hearing impaired, call 1-800-745-5555.

If you live in Massachusetts, the Women’s Health Network provides free breast and cervical cancer screening, diagnostic services and health education to low income, uninsured or underinsured women at local health centers, hospitals and community agencies throughout Massachusetts.  You can contact them at 1-877-414-4447, 617-624-5406, or for the hearing impaired at 617-624-5992.

Other states may have free access to mammograms.  Check with your state health department.

No one in my family has ever had breast cancer.  Why do I have to get screened?

It is important to know your family history because we know that if a first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) is diagnosed with breast cancer, it raises your risk.  Your genetic history for the breast cancer genes – BRCA-1 and/or BRCA-2 – is also important information if any family member has been tested.  This is information that you need to share with your health professional (doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner).

Despite having no one in your family ever diagnosed with breast cancer, statistics indicate that approximately 80% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have NO family history nor does their family have the identified gene(s).  You are still at risk and should follow the three-method screening practice:

  • Monthly breast self-exams
  • Annual clinical breast exam
  • Annual mammogram, beginning at age 40 if you have no risk factors

If you are at higher risk (family history, BRCA-1/BRCA-2 genes, history of ovarian cancer, race/ethnicity at higher risk) your first mammogram should be done at an earlier age.

Why are more women in Rhode Island diagnosed with breast cancer than in other parts of the country?

There are several theories under research, none of which have been proven.

Because of the state’s Women’s Cancer Screening Program that provides free mammograms and does extensive outreach to the underserved population, Rhode Island women have more access to screening than in some other states.  This may account for more women being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Rhode Islanders live longer than people in other states, and although women are diagnosed as early as their 20s, the risk of breast cancer increases with age.

Do men get breast cancer?

Yes, men do get breast cancer.  Approximately 2 percent of people diagnosed with breast cancer are men, whose risk is 1 in 1000.  Their risk factors are the same as those of women – family history, having the BRCA-1 and/or BRCA-2 gene mutations, aging, exposure to estrogen (through hormone therapy for prostate cancer or in transgender procedures), and Kleinfelter’s Syndrome (men born with more than one copy of the X chromosome).  For men who have the BRCA-2 gene mutation, their risk for prostate cancer also increases.

Symptoms in men are the same as for women:  lump in the breast tissue, skin changes to the breast, or nipple discharge.

Men at normal risk should do monthly breast self-exams and have an annual clinical exam.  For a man who is at higher risk, the doctor may order a mammogram or a breast ultrasound.  Men die from breast cancer at a higher rate than women, because the disease if often diagnosed at a later stage..  This is largely due to irregular screening of men’s breast tissue.

When should I do a breast self-exam?

Women should do a breast exam once each month.  If she is still having her periods, she should wait 7 to 10 days after it ends to do her exam since her breasts may be sensitive during her period, making the exam painful.

Men should also do a breast exam once each month.  For him it may be easier to select the same date each month – perhaps his birthday, i.e. for a man whose birthday is January 9, he would perform his breast self-exam on the 9th of each month.

It is recommended that a breast self-exam be one aspect of a three-part breast health screening:

  • Monthly breast self-exam
  • Annual clinical exam by a health professional
  • Mammogram when appropriate

By using all three screening tools, you increase your chances of finding your breast cancer early.

Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of developing breast cancer?

There are risk factors that cannot be changed:  family history, genetic history, race/ethnicity, age, menstrual and/or reproductive history, or a personal history of cancer.

Research has shown there are some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk and/or keep your body healthy so if you are diagnosed, you can rely on it through your treatment.  These are:

  • Eat a low fat, high fiber diet
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol
  • Do not use tobacco products
  • Exercise
Do breast implants increase your risk of breast cancer?

No. Breast implants do not increase your risk of breast cancer. They can, however, make it more difficult to detect tumors.  Be sure if you change doctors you tell them that you have implants.

While playing athletic games, I was hit by a ball.  Will repeated injuries cause breast cancer?

No. Injuries to the breast area do not cause breast cancer.  A reason this may be a common misconception could be that after someone injures her/his breast, they may undergo an x-ray to diagnose an injury.  If they have not had a mammogram recently, the x-ray may reveal an already existing tumor that was not caused by the accident.

Does wearing an underwire bra cause breast cancer?

No. There is not a correlation between the type of bra a person wears and breast cancer.

Does wearing a bra to bed cause breast cancer?

No. Wearing a bra to bed does not cause cancer.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Yes, there are several.  Lumps are the most common symptom of breast cancer, though not all lumps are cancerous.  Other symptoms include discharge from the nipple, a change in the shape or size of the breast, dimpling of the skin, or a rash on the surface of the breast.  Like lumps, not all symptoms are cancerous but should be discussed with a medical professional.

Does taking birth control pills (oral contraceptives) increase my risk of breast cancer?

Undetermined. Research continues on the potential effects of oral contraceptives use in breast cancer.  There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is increased when using oral contraceptives.  We suggest that you discuss your concerns with your medical professional who knows your family, menstrual and reproductive histories and can make appropriate recommendations.

Does deodorant cause breast cancer?

There is no proof that wearing deodorant causes breast cancer.

Can breast cancer be prevented?

There is no known method of preventing breast cancer. The best protection against breast cancer is to follow the three-part screening method—monthly breast-self exams, annual clinical breast exams performed by a medical professional, and annual mammograms beginning at age 40, if you have no risk factors.

Do chemicals in household products cause breast cancer?

Undetermined. Research continues on the relationship between chemicals in household products and breast cancer.

our mission

To raise breast cancer awareness, increase breast health education, enhance the quality of life for breast cancer patients, as well as their families and friends, and generate funding for local breast health programs