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25 Breast Cancer Myths

25 Breast Cancer Myths

Understanding Breast Cancer – 25 Myths Debunked

breast cancer 25 Breast Cancer Myths

1. Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk.

Truth: It’s estimated that 70% of breast cancer patients have no identifiable risk factors for the disease. But your risks of developing the disease increase doubly if a first degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) has had or has breast cancer. And if you have two first-degree relatives with the disease increases your risk even more.

2. Myth: Wearing an underwire bra increases your risk of getting breast cancer.

Truth: Some believe that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast causing toxins to accumulate which can result in breast cancer. This myth has been widely debunked as unscientific. Researchers believe that neither the type of bra you wear nor the tightness of your underwear or other clothing has any connection to breast cancer risk.

3. Myth: Most breast lumps are cancerous.

Truth: Around 80% of lumps in women’s breasts are caused by benign (noncancerous) changes, cysts, or other conditions. However doctors often encourage women to have a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy to determine whether a lump is cancerous, simply because catching breast cancer early is extremely beneficial.

4. Myth: Exposing a tumor to air during surgery causes cancer to spread.

Truth: Researchers have not found any truth behind this myth, as far as they can tell surgery doesn’t cause breast cancer and it doesn’t cause breast cancer to spread. During surgery your doctor may find that the cancer is more widespread than previously thought. And some animal studies have found that removing the primary tumor sometimes enables metastatic cancers to grow, but this only temporarily and never been demonstrated in humans.

5. Myth: Breast implants can raise your cancer risk.

Truth: According to research, women with breast implants are at no greater risk of getting breast cancer. However breast implants can obscure standard mammograms images so additional x-rays are sometimes needed.

6. Myth: All women have a 1-in-8 chance of getting breast cancer.

Truth: Your risk increases as you get older. A woman’s chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 233 when she’s in her 30s and rises to 1 in 8 by the time she’s reached 85.

7. Myth: Wearing antiperspirant increases your risk of getting breast cancer.

Truth: According to the American Cancer Society wearing antiperspirant is not linked to the risk of breast cancer. One study did find traces of parabens, the preservatives used in some antiperspirants, in a small sample of breast cancer tumors however it was not able to find a cause-and-effect connection between the two. In fact the study was not able to conclusively identify the source of the parabens found in tumors.

8. Myth: Small-breasted women have less chance of getting breast cancer.

Truth: The size of your breasts has nothing to do with you risks of developing the disease. Larger breast may be more difficult to examine with clinical breast exams. But all women regardless of the size of their breast should commit to routine checkups.

9. Myth: Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.

Truth: Signs of breast cancer may not always become apparent in the form of a lump. There are several other changes which women should be on the lookout for. These included swelling; skin irritation or dimpling; breast or nipple pain; nipple retraction (turning inward); redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin; or a discharge. It is also possible that the cancer exhibit no symptoms at all, women with a type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) rarely have develop a lump.

Symptoms of IBC include swelling, redness, itchiness, or warmth in the breast; tenderness or pain; a change in the nipple, such as retraction; skin that appears thick and pitted like an orange peel or with ridges and small bumps; an area of the breast that looks bruised; or swollen lymph nodes under the arm.

10. Myth: You can’t get breast cancer after a mastectomy.

Truth: Some women do get breast cancer after a mastectomy and sometimes at the site of the scar. After prophylactic mastectomy a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by an average of 90%, however the chance of developing the disease still remains.

11. Myth: Your father’s family history of breast cancer doesn’t affect your risk as much as your mother’s.

Truth: Your father’s family history of breast cancer is just as important as your mother’s when it comes to understanding your risks. But to find out about the risk stemming from your father’s side, you need to look primarily at the women, although men do get breast cancer, women are more vulnerable.

Associated cancers in men, such as early-onset prostate or colon cancer, on either side of the family are also an important to factor to help determine your risks.

12. Myth: Caffeine causes breast cancer.

Truth: No research suggests this statement is true, in fact some researchers suggest that caffeine may actually lower your risks.

13. Myth: If you’re at risk for breast cancer, there’s little you can do but watch for the signs.

Truth: There are lots of things you can do to lower your risks. These include losing weight if they’re obese, getting regular exercise, lowering or eliminating alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, being rigorous about examining their own breasts, and having regular clinical exams and mammograms.

There are many high-risk women’s clinics and preventative care programs which may suggest a prophylactic mastectomy, chemoprevention and/or clinical trials.

14. Myth: Women with lumpy breasts (also known as fibrocystic breast changes) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Truth: In the past this was believed to have been true, however more recent research suggests there is no connection at all. Fibrocystic breast changes can make it difficult to differentiate normal tissue from cancerous tissue this may result in more false alarms.

15. Myth: Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of cancer.

Truth: While it is true that mammograms use radiation to help capture the image, the amount is so small that any risks are extremely small compared with the huge benefits reaped from the test. Mammograms can detect lumps well before they can be felt or otherwise noticed, and the earlier that lumps are caught, the better one’s chances for survival.

16. Myth: Needle biopsies can disturb cancer cells and cause them to spread to other parts of the body.

Truth: Despite some previous concerns, a 2004 study found no increased spread of cancer among patients undergoing needle biopsies compared to those who did not have the procedure.

17. Myth: After heart disease, breast cancer is the nation’s leading killer of women.

Truth: While breast cancer claims many lives every year, the above statement is far from the truth. Breast cancer kills roughly 40,000 women a year in the United States while strokes are responsible for 96,000 deaths, lung cancer 71,000 and chronic lower respiratory disease 67,000.

18. Myth: If your mammography report is negative, there is nothing else to worry about.

Truth: Despite their importance for breast cancer screening and diagnosis, mammograms fail to detect around 10% to 20% of breast cancers. This is why clinical breast exams and, to some extent, breast self-exams are crucial pieces of the screening process.

19. Myth: Hair straighteners cause breast cancer in African-American women.

Truth: A Study conducted on a group of African-American women who had used straighteners seven or more times a year for 20 years or longer, suggests that there is no link between the use of hair straighteners/relaxers and breast cancer.

20. Myth: Removing the entire breast gives you a better chance of surviving cancer than having a lumpectomy with radiation therapy.

Truth: Studies show that survival rates are roughly the same for women who have mastectomies and for women who choose to remove only part of the breast following up surgery with radiation treatments. However there are some cases when lumpectomy and radiation may not be an appropriate treatment option.

21. Myth: Overweight women have the same breast cancer risk as other women.

Truth: Being overweight can increase your risks of breast cancer, especially for those who are past menopause and for those who have gained weight in later life.

22. Myth: Fertility treatments increase the risk of getting breast cancer.

Truth: Given estrogen’s connection to breast cancer, fertility treatments have come under suspicion as a factor that can increase risks. Several studies have shown that prospective mothers are likely to have no higher risk of breast cancer, although researchers agree more studies need to be carried out.

23. Myth: Living near power lines can cause breast cancer.

Truth: A 2003 study aimed at explaining what appeared to be a high incidence of breast cancer in certain counties on Long Island, N.Y., found no link between the disease and electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines. A previous study in Seattle also concluded there was no connection.

24. Myth: Having an abortion raises your risk of getting breast cancer.

Truth: Because abortion is believed to disrupt hormone cycles during pregnancy and breast cancer is linked to hormone levels, numerous studies have investigated a causal link but found no conclusive evidence for one.

25. Myth: Breast cancer is preventable.

Truth: Unfortunately this is not true. Although it is possible to identify risk factors (such as family history and inherited gene mutations) and make lifestyle changes that can lower your risk (reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, losing weight, getting regular exercise and screenings, and quitting smoking), roughly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors, meaning that the disease occurs largely by chance and according to as-yet-unexplained factors.
For this reason it is crucial to get regular breast exams and mammograms and always consult with your doctor if you notice any changes.


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