Sign In
Breast cancer screening in NF1
  • As you know, NF1 can cause lumps in the body called neurofibromas.
  • Although these lumps are not cancerous, they might make it more difficult for doctors to screen for things like breast cancer.
  • This is because lumps can be inside the skin or in other parts of the body that can’t be seen by the doctor – such as inside the breast.  
  • Breast cancer doesn’t have a lot of symptoms. The best way to find it is to look for lumps in your breast.

​ 

WHY AM I HAVING BREAST CANCER SCREENING? 

alternate text 46 

​ 

  • Having NF1 puts you at a higher risk of getting breast cancer at a younger age. This is compared to someone without NF1. 
  • The graph above shows three different groups of women and their risk of getting breast cancer as they get older. The blue line is for women without NF1, and you can see that this line is lower on the graph, which means that they have a lower risk of getting breast cancer. The orange line is women with NF1. This group of women have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. The risk of getting breast cancer is highest for women who have a fault in a breast cancer gene, such as the BRCA1 gene, shown here in green.
  • Because having NF1 puts you at a higher risk of getting breast cancer at a younger age, we recommend breast screening for women with NF1 every year from the age of 35. This is to help find breast cancer earlier.
    • Screening simply means checking a woman's breasts for any problems.
  • We also recommend you do monthly breast self-examination. If you are unsure about how to do a breast self-exam, have a chat with your doctor or see link for more information.

​ 

SELF BREAST EXAM

alternate text 47 

image: Volha Kratkouskaya/shutterstock.com

 

  • We recommend that you feel your own breasts for any lumps once a month.
  • This is called a breast self-exam.
  • You need to let your doctor know if you find any lumps under the skin that you are worried about.
  • If you are unsure about how to do a breast self-exam, have a chat with your doctor.

 

WHAT BREAST SCREENING TESTS AM I GETTING?

  • There are different types of tests we can use to look for lumps in your breasts. Your doctor will explain specific tests that are best for you, and you will have the chance to ask questions
  • Your breast cancer screening may include one or more of the following procedures:
  • A clinical breast exam
  • A breast MRI
  • A breast mammogram
  • An ultrasound
  • A biopsy
  • Depending on your  MRI, mammogram or ultrasound results, you may also have a small sample taken from your breast if any lumps are found in the initial tests. This is called a biopsy.

​ 

CLINICAL BREAST EXAM

alternate text 48
    Medina/Shutterstock.com

  • A clinical breast exam is carried out by your doctor.
  • The procedure could happen before and after your other breast screening tests.
  • At the appointment, the doctor may want to check the appearance of your breasts and feel for any lumps.
  • The doctor will usually check both breasts, one at a time.

​ 

BREAST MRI

  • Another procedure used for breast screening is MRI. A breast MRI uses an MRI machine.
  • An MRI machine uses a big magnet and radio waves to take a picture of your breasts.
  • When you are booking your MRI, the staff may ask about your menstrual cycle. This is so the MRI can be done at a time in your cycle when the images are easiest to interpret.

 

alternate text 49
             Image by Emma Hartley

  •  Before your MRI you will need to change into a gown. You will also need to remove any metal jewellery​​​. 
  • You will be given a substance called Gadolinium through a drip. This is to help the doctors to distinguish worrying lumps from typical breast tissue. This makes it easier to find any worrying lumps from normal breast tissue.
  • During the MRI you need to lie still on the MRI bed on your stomach.
  • Although the machine can be noisy, you will be able to talk with the clinic staff at all times during your scan. The MRI scan takes about 45-60 minutes.

​ 

SEE ALSO

For additional Breast MRI information, please click on one of these sites:

 Inside RadiologyExternal Link

BCI Breast Cancer Fact Sheets External Link

PDF icon North Shore Radiology Breast MRI ImagingExternal Link

To watch a video about MRI, please click Chevron hereExternal Link

​ 

BREAST MAMMOGRAM

alternate text 50
Image by Emma Hartley
  • Another breast screening test is mammogram. A mammogram takes an X-ray picture of your breasts.
  • Each breast is placed in the machine and squeezed tightly, usually twice. Some women find this uncomfortable for a short moment.
  •  It only takes a few minutes to take each picture. Having a mammogram usually takes about 30 minutes.
alternate text 51alternate text 52
MRI Image                                             Mammogram Image

​ 

  • As you can see in the MRI image (above) there are neurofibromas on the skin (white arrow). There are no neurofibromas inside the breasts (yellow arrow). This is because there is very little nerve tissue there. 
  • One of the reasons MRI is used more often in young women with NF1 is because doctors cannot always tell the difference between skin neurofibromas and other lumps when looking at mammograms.

​ 

SEE ALSO

For additional Mammogram information, please click on one of these sites:

​ 

ULTRASOUND

  • Another breast screening procedure is an ultrasound. An ultrasound uses a hand-held scanner placed on your breast.
  • The scanner uses sound waves to take pictures of the inside of your breasts.
  • The clinic staff use a gel while using the scanner, which may feel a bit cold but is painless.
  • It takes about 30 minutes to take the ultrasound pictures.

​ 

SEE ALSO

For additional information about Ultrasound, please click on one of these sites:

​ 

BIOPSY

alternate text 55
image: Sezer33/Shutterstock.com

  • If any lumps are found in your breasts, you may be told that a small sample will need to be taken. This is known as a biopsy.
  • Up to 1 in 6 women will have a biopsy after having an MRI, Mammogram or Ultrasound.
  • A biopsy could happen on the day of your screening, or on a later day.
  • Needing a Biopsy does NOT mean you have cancer. It is possible that you have other types of lumps in your breasts.
  • A biopsy lets your doctor have a closer look at the lump.
  • For the biopsy, the doctor will use an ultrasound scanner to find the lump.
  • To take a biopsy the doctor will inject a local anaesthetic to numb the skin. This is to make the procedure more comfortable.
  • Once the area is numb a needle is used to take a small sample of the lump.
  • The biopsy itself usually takes a few minutes. The procedure takes about 30 minutes.

alternate text 56
 image: Visual Generation/Shutterstock.com

 

  • After your biopsy, the doctors will have a closer look at the cells inside the lump using a microscope.
  • This will let them know what type of lump it is.
  • In most cases, the lump turns out to be harmless, known as benign. This means it is NOT cancerous.
  • The biopsy results may take a number of days to come back.

 

SEE ALSO