Healthy Living

Ask the Expert: Breast Cancer Q&A

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You ask, we answer. For breast cancer awareness month, we’ve tied up with the awesome folks at 10KSA in order to get the facts straight.


10KSA Ambassador and medical expert, Dr. Wafa AlKhayal is graciously sharing her knowledge with us. Don’t bet your life on hearsay, know what Breast Cancer means to you:

Can breast cancer develop in women in their twenties?
It is rare for women to develop breast cancer in their twenties but it happens. Various studies have shown that in Saudi Arabia around 20% of women were less than 40 years of age when diagnosed with breast cancer compared to the West, which is only 5%.

This is why it is important to be ‘breast aware’ starting in your twenties by:

  • Practicing monthly self-breast exam
  • Clinical breast exam by a physician every 1-3 yrs for women up to 39 yrs of age

However, if a woman has a family history of breast cancer such as her mother or sister then she is termed as ‘high-risk’ and she should see a specialist for earlier screening than the recommended 40 yrs of age.

Is it possible for men to have it? If yes, then what are the symptoms?
Yes it is possible but it is very rare and because it is rare it is usually diagnosed at advanced stages. The most common symptom is a painless lump behind the nipple. Sometimes nipple changes occur.
What's the percentage of women that get breast cancer in Saudi?
In Saudi Arabia 14.8% of the most common cancer cases is breast cancer.
When does someone need to start getting a mammogram? Do mammograms increase my chance of breast cancer?
It is recommended that mammograms should be started at the age of 40 and to be repeated annually.

Mammograms use the lowest amount of x-ray radiation and scientific data has not shown that repeated mammograms cause breast cancer.

I exercise a lot and enjoy physical activities; does working out or lifting weights make my breast prone to cancer?
The opposite is true, preforming regular moderate intensity exercise (5 hrs per week) and being physically fit has been shown to decrease risk of developing breast cancer or breast cancer coming back.
Where can you go for a gene test in Saudi Arabia to see if you're more susceptible to breast cancer (like the test Angelina Jolie did)?
Currently this test is not available in Saudi Arabia. The gene test is not routinely done because about 5% -10% of all breast cancer patients are gene carriers; this means that 90-95% of patients have no genetic predisposition.

Angelina Jolie is a special case, she had a very strong family history of ovarian and breast cancer, with that history and genetic counseling, she underwent genetic testing. Therefore, if a woman has a strong family history she should seek out a breast specialist and discuss her options.


Dr. Wafa AlkhayalWafa Alkhayal, MD

Assistant Professor of Surgery
Consultant Breast and Endocrine Surgery

Wafa Alkhayal, received her Saudi and Arab board degree in General Surgery and obtained her fellowship in breast and endocrine surgery from the United States. She has been an active member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons since 2009. She is a Consultant Breast and Endocrine Surgeon, who manages a wide variety of breast cancer in King Faisal Specialist hospital. She is also an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the College of Medicine, in Princess Noura University. She is active in initiating various research projects looking at health and behavior and participates in various public outreach activities.

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