Dr. Karen L. Porte, M.D., FACE

Internal Medicine, Wellness, and Endocrinology

2024 S. Maiden Lane, Suite 204

Joplin, Mo.


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MythBusters Breast Cancer Edition with Dr. Karen Porte


For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Karen L. Porte is debunking some common myths about breast cancer.


MYTH: If you have had a hysterectomy, your body is no longer producing estrogen.


Many women who have had a hysterectomy go on estrogen replacement therapy, but it turns out that decision may be not only unnecessary but dangerous.


“As it turns out, the peripheral tissues in our breasts, hips and thighs are fat cells, which produce hormones and produce estrogen,” Dr. Porte said. “So as women gain weight, they actually produce increasing amounts of estrogen.”


What’s the problem? The more estrogen the better, right?




“If you have silent areas of breast cancer cells that are positive receptors for estrogen, and now you’re on estrogen medication plus your fat cells are manufacturing estrogen, you are feeding those cancer cells.”


Bottom line: Overweight women who have had a hysterectomy should likely not be on estrogen replacement therapy, especially if they have a family history of breast cancer.  


MYTH: BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the only genetic mutations that cause breast cancer.


“Women are under the preconceived notion that only those with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer gene have a genetic possibility of getting breast cancer,” Dr. Porte said. “There are actually lots of rare variants of genes that cause breast cancer, and every day we’re finding more of them.”


In fact, Dr. Porte’s nursing administrator, Marilyn Marshall, was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer two years ago after discovering she had a rare genetic mutation. That gene was NBN c.995-23_998delins27.


“It’s quite rare,” Marshall said. “There are only two of us in the Four-State Area who have it.”


Bottom line: Just because you don’t have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. 


MYTH: A mammogram will tell you if you have breast cancer.


Approximately 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue, and it is much harder to detect breast cancer in dense tissue with a traditional mammogram or even an ultrasound.


“If you have dense breast tissue, you will likely need an MRI or 3-D mammogram to find the cancer,” Dr. Porte said.