10 Breast cancer myths busted

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, providing a chance to raise awareness about the importance of detecting breast cancer early. The good news is that most women will survive breast cancer when found and treated early.  There have been thousands of articles written about breast cancer, yet there are still many misunderstandings associated with this disease needing clarification.

For instance, when we hear of a woman diagnosed with cancer, most of us assume it is breast cancer.  This is a reasonable assumption since breast cancer gets a lot of media exposure compared to other forms of cancer.  However, with the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is actually the second most common cancer diagnosed in women.

By 2021, The American Cancer Society estimates that about 282,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women.   While incidence rates of breast cancer have increased by 0.5% per year, the average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is 13%. This means 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer but it also means there’s a 7 in 8 chance a woman will never have the disease.

10 Common myths associated with breast cancer

With tons of information online regarding breast cancer, it’s likely many women have read inaccurate information associated with this disease.  Dispelling these myths will arm women with accurate facts needed if diagnosed with breast cancer.

Here are common mistaken beliefs that have circulated over time women no longer need to accept as the truth:

  1. Myth – Almost all breast lumps are cancerous

Truth – The vast majority of lumps found in women’s breasts (about 80%) are benign or noncancerous caused by various changes in breast tissue, cysts, or other conditions.  But any lump or change found in a breast needs further evaluation to rule out cancer.  A physician should perform a clinical breast exam with possible breast imaging to determine if the lump is of concern or not, is necessary.  A doctor may recommend a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy to help determine whether a lump is cancerous.

  1. Myth – Underwire bras cause breast cancer

Truth – This misconception is based on an old theory that an underwire bra would reduce lymphatic drainage causing toxins to accumulate leading to breast cancer.  This notion has been widely debunked as unscientific with the consensus being it doesn’t matter the type of bra a woman wears or the tightness of her clothing of having any connection to breast cancer risk.

  1. Myth – Antiperspirants cause breast cancer

Truth – What most likely started this rumor was the fact that some antiperspirants use a chemical preservative called parabens which may increase estrogen levels linked to breast cancer risk.  But there is no research supporting this notion and the American Cancer Society also debunks this myth.  If paraben is of concern to a woman, she should check the ingredient label looking for ingredients such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzyl paraben.  The majority of most antiperspirants no longer contain these substances.

Women who have a mammogram will be told not to wear an antiperspirant as they can      contain aluminum which may show up on the mammogram as a false-positive result.  The National Cancer Institute does not advise limiting the use of antiperspirants but does say more research is needed in this area.

  1. Myth – Women with small breasts have a reduced risk of getting breast cancer

Truth – Breast size does not affect a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.  It is true, however, that it can be harder to examine larger breasts than smaller breasts either with a clinical breast exam or through a mammogram.  But regardless of breast size, all women should commit to regular screenings and checkups.

However, there are some women who have extremely dense breasts. Breasts are made up of fibrous tissue, glandular tissue, and fatty tissue. Women with dense breasts have more fibrous and glandular tissues and less fatty tissue than women without dense breasts. Women with dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer – any woman unsure of her breast density should ask this question when she has a mammogram.

The density of breasts can change over time but women more likely to have dense breasts tend to be younger, are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking hormone replacement therapy, or have lower body weight.

Women with dense breasts should talk to their doctor about their personal risk for breast cancer. It is also recommended these women use a 3D mammogram for their annual breast cancer screening called digital breast tomosytheses (DBT). DBT uses x-rays to detect breast cancers helping find more cancers than a standard mammogram, resulting in fewer recalls for additional imaging in women without cancer.

  1. Myth – Exposure to air causes cancer to spread

Truth – Having surgery does not cause breast cancer and it does not cause breast cancer to spread.  It is a natural concern of patients to worry as cancer can have the potential to spread or metastasis but cutting into a tumor where it is exposed to air will not be a cause of cancer to spread.

  1. Myth – Breast implants raise the risk of breast cancer

Truth – There is no greater risk to women with breast implants compared to women without them, according to research.  However, standard mammograms may not always work as well on women with breast implants so additional imaging may sometimes be needed to fully examine breast tissue.

  1. Myth – Women with lumpy breasts or fibrocystic breast changes have a higher risk

Truth – At one time it was believed that women with fibrocystic breasts were at a higher risk of breast cancer but this common condition does not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.  Women with this noncancerous or benign condition often have lumpy breast changes likely due to hormonal changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle that affects breast tissue.  Although fibrocystic breast changes don’t increase a woman’s risk of the disease, this condition makes it challenging to feel a new breast lump that doesn’t go away with the next menstrual cycle.

  1. Myth – The majority of women who get breast cancer have a family history of it

Truth – This myth would make sense and it is a common misconception woman may believe to be one of the main risk factors.  However, while women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group (particularly if their mother, sister or daughter develops the disease), most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.  Statistically, only about 10% of women diagnosed with it have a family history.

  1. Myth – Only older women get breast cancer

Truth – Breast cancer risk does increase with age (the average age of a new breast cancer diagnosis is 61), yet much younger women can and do get breast cancer. One in six breast cancers occurs in women between 40-49 years of age while about 5% of new breast cancer diagnoses are in women under the age of 40 years. Usually, there is a strong family history of breast cancer in women younger than age 40. While breast cancer is rare in younger women, women of all ages should perform monthly self breast-exams and talk to their doctor about their personal risk factors for the disease and how to reduce those risks. Early detection saves lives.

  1. Myth – A healthy lifestyle will fully protect you from breast cancer

Truth – It is always in a woman’s best interest to take care of her body.  But even healthy women can still develop and be given a diagnosis of breast cancer. It is true that overweight or obese postmenopausal women are at an increased risk of the disease, but there is nothing a woman can do to entirely eliminate her risk. The best advice is to have routine yearly mammogram screenings, perform monthly self-breast exams, and to pay attention to any breast changes such as:

  • A lump in or near the breast or under the arm
  • Thick or firm tissue in or near the breast or under the arm
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Nipple discharge (the fluid that is not breast milk)
  • Nipple changes, such as a nipple that points or faces inward (inverted) into the breast
  • Skin changes on the breast such as itching, redness, scaling, dimples, or puckers on the breast

Women, who have any of the above changes, should see their healthcare provider right away.    Don’t wait until the next mammogram as tests may be needed to diagnose the condition. Remember, the early a breast cancer lump is found, the greater likelihood it can be successfully treated.

4.2/55 ratings
You find this post OK!