With improvements in treatment and early detection, millions of women are surviving breast cancer today. Statistics reveal that breast cancer affects one in eight women and kills more women in the US than any other cancer, except cancer of the lung. They are several myths surrounding breast cancer.
As such, breast cancer is one of the most misunderstood diseases. For instance, a friend can swear that wearing a bra can cause breast cancer, whereas in reality there is no scientific support to this myth. And such misinformation is potentially dangerous.
Breast Cancer Myth 1
Men do not/ cannot get breast cancer
While it is true that women develop breast cancer at a much higher rate than men, it is also true that men can develop breast cancer. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all cases of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Myth 2
Wearing an underwire bra can cause and/or increase your risk of breast cancer
Some felt that wearing an underwire bra can cause cancer of the breast. This is because underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast and cause toxins to accumulate thereby causing cancer.
This is untrue and has been widely debunked as unscientific. Breast cancer risk has nothing to do with the type of bra worn or its tightness.
Breast Cancer Myth 3
Women under age forty do not get breast cancer
While it is true that breast cancer risk increases with age, women of all ages can develop breast cancer. Hence a monthly breast self examination is strongly recommended for women of all ages.
Breast Cancer Myth 4
Antiperspirant and deodorants can cause/increase the risk of breast cancer. When you use an antiperspirant or deodorant and cut yourself while shaving, a chemical would leak into the skin, causing breast cancer.
The National Cancer center and the US FDA has no evidence to support that ingredients used in antiperspirants and deodorants can cause cancer.
Breast Cancer Myth 5
Birth control pills can cause cancer
Whereas birth control pills do contain small amounts of estrogen, this amount is too small; it is not even a factor in breast cancer development.
Breast Cancer Myth 6
Mammograms can spread/cause breast cancer. Annual mammograms expose you to radiation that the risk of cancer is increased.
The radiation used in mammograms is very low and hence mammograms are absolutely safe. The American college of Radiology has mandated the amount of radiation for mammograms and it is well within the safety standards. It needs to be understood that mammograms can detect lumps well before other methods/devices and if the lumps are caught early, the better the chances for survival.
Breast Cancer Myth 7
Needle biopsies can cause/spread cancer to other parts of the body
This has not been conclusively proven. But studies reveal that that there is no increase in the spread of breast cancer in patients undergoing needle biopsies, compared to those who do not undergo this procedure.
Breast Cancer Myth 8
Most lumps in the breast are cancerous.
A lump in the breast can indicate several things and 80% of the lumps are caused by benign changes, cysts, or other conditions. But you must beware of any kind of changes that may be signs of cancer. These signs and symptoms include swelling, skin irritation, pain in breast and nipple, redness, scaliness, and thickening of nipple or breast skin or a discharge. It is also found that breast cancer can spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause swelling. A mammogram needs to be done to ascertain cancer of the breast that has no outward symptoms at all.
Breast Cancer Myth 9
If your mammography report is negative, there is nothing to worry.
Mammograms fail to detect around 10 -20% of breast cancers. Therefore, clinical examination of the breast is vital and breast self exams are crucial to the screening process.
Breast Cancer Myth 10
Exposing a tumor to air during surgery causes cancer to spread.
This is absolutely untrue, as surgery cannot and does not cause cancer to spread.
Breast Cancer Myth 11
Breast implants can raise the cancer risk
There is no special or greater risk for women with breast implants. As standard mammograms may not work well in such women, it is advised to have additional x rays done to fully examine the breast tissue.
Breast Cancer Myth 12
Breast cancer develops only in one breast.
It is untrue, as breast cancer can develop in any or both the breasts or spread from one breast to the other.
Breast Cancer Myth 13
Mastectomy is the only treatment for breast cancer
It is not so as there are several treatments for breast cancer including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Again, you can get breast cancer even after undergoing mastectomy. Or the original cancer might spread. But, it is seen that after prophylactic mastectomy, the risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by an average of 90%.
Breast Cancer Myth 14
If the breasts are smaller in size, the risk of developing breast cancer is low
There is no logical connection between the size of breasts and the risk of breast cancer as the amount of tissue in the breast does not affect the risk factor for developing cancer of the breast
Breast Cancer Myth 15
Family history impacts breast cancer to a great extent.
Statistics reveal that almost 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any identifiable risk factors for the disease. But, if a parent, sibling or child has had breast cancer, then your risk of developing the disease is almost double.
Breast Cancer Myth 16
If compared, the family history of father is not as important as that of a mother, for cancer risk.
This is not so, as the father's family history of breast cancer is as important as the mother's. While men do get breast cancer, the vulnerability of women is more. Associated cancers, such as cancer of the colon or prostrate in men becomes as relevant when assessing the family tree for risk.
Breast Cancer Myth 17
All women, in general, have a one in eight chance of the risk of breast cancer.
The risk for the disease increases as you get older. The chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 233 when in your thirties and 1 in 8 by the time you reach 85.
Breast Cancer Myth 18
Caffeine causes breast cancer
There is no actual connection between drinking coffee and getting breast cancer. In fact, there is a study which suggests that caffeine may actually lower your risk. But there is no conclusive evidence linking breast cancer and caffeine.
Breast Cancer Myth 19
Risk factors of breast cancer cannot be altered
There is a lot you can do to lower the risk of cancer. This includes losing weight, undertaking regular exercises, lowering alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, regular breast self examination, regular clinical exams and mammograms. High risk women can undergo prophylactic mastectomy in order to decrease the risk by almost 90%. They need to have regular MRIs and explore other methods of treatment like chemoprevention.
Breast Cancer Myth 20
Overweight women do not exhibit more risk for breast cancer
The risk of breast cancer increases with weight; overweight women are indeed more prone to breast cancer risk and menopause and excess weight gain at later age in life is more complicated.
Breast Cancer Myth 21
Risk of breast cancer increases with fertility treatments
Several studies have revealed that prospective mothers are likely to have no higher risk of breast cancer than ordinary ones. But there are fears that given the estrogen connection, fertility treatments can raise the risk for breast cancer. There is no conclusive evidence in this area.
Breast Cancer Myth 22
Removing the entire breast gives a better chance to survive cancer
Survival rates are almost equal for women who undergo mastectomies and lumpectomy with radiation therapy and the like. However, in some cases as in large tumors, lumpectomy and radiation may not be as effective and appropriate.
Breast Cancer Myth 23
Power lines proximity can cause breast cancer
There is no link between the disease and electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines. However, research into potential environmental risk factors continues.
Breast Cancer Myth 24
Abortion raises breast cancer risk.
There is no conclusive evidence to prove this, although some fear that since hormone cycles are disrupted and breast cancer is linked to hormone levels, there could be a causal link between the two. But this fact is not established.
Breast Cancer Myth 25
Breast cancer is contagious
One cannot touch breast cancer or transfer to someone else. Breast cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth in one's own body.