Despite the many studies that have been done, myths about breast cancer continue to persist among women up to the present time. Unfortunately, some of these myths may prevent women from being proactive with their regular breast cancer monitoring activities.
Let us take a look at the 10 breast cancer myths that need to be debunked once and for all…
1) MYTH: Women with a family history of breast cancer are the only ones at risk.
TRUTH: Research has shown that around 70 percent of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer did not present with any identifiable risk factors. When it comes to family history, women who have a mother, sister and/or child (first degree relative) will have an increased risk of developed breast cancer than those without.
2) MYTH: Anti-perspirants, underwire bras, breast implants, hair straighteners, powerline and cellphone radiation, etc. can increase your risk of breast cancer.
TRUTH: Comprehensive studies on each of these items revealed that there is no demonstrable connection between their continued use and breast cancer. Even studies on ruptured silicone breast implants did not show reveal a connection with breast cancer.
3) MYTH: Women with small breasts have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
TRUTH: No connection was found between breast size and breast cancer development. What researchers have noted, though, was that women with larger breasts tend to be more difficult to examine for breast cancer tumours on mammograms and MRIs because of the more abundant breast tissues.
4) MYTH: Women with lumpy breasts are at greater risk of breast cancer.
TRUTH: While it was originally believed that women with fibrocystic disease of the breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer, recent studies have shown that this is not true. The problem with lumpy breasts is that it will be more difficult for doctors to determine which lumps are normal and those which are cancerous. It is not uncommon for women to get false positive results on their mammograms. At present, women with lumpy breasts are advised that undergo mammography together with breast ultrasound.
5) MYTH: If you have a lump in your breast, it is automatically breast cancer.
TRUTH: A breast lump may be benign or malignant. You should suspect breast cancer if the lump is accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including dimpling and irritation of the breast skin, retraction of the nipple, breast and/or nipple pain, or bleeding and other discharges from the nipple. You should also check each armpit. If you happen to feel enlarged lymph nodes in your underarm, it is indicative of breast cancer spread. Please note that mammograms can detect breast cancer at its earliest stages before it even presents with signs and symptoms.
6) MYTH: If you get a negative result in your mammography, you don’t have to worry about getting breast cancer.
TRUTH: Not true. Please remember that your risk for breast cancer increases as you grow older. While you may be negative in your mammogram now, you are still at risk of developing breast cancer in the future. It is very important that you continue to perform breast self-examination and have a mammogram done yearly (if you are age 40-49) or every two years (if you are 50 years old and above).
7) MYTH: Too much radiation from mammograms will increase your risk of breast cancer.
TRUTH: The amount of radiation being emitted by mammography machines is very small to cause or increase breast cancer risk. It is more important to get a regular mammogram done since it can detect breast cancer at its earliest stage, making it easier and less expensive to treat.
8) MYTH: You are free of getting breast cancer after you have had a mastectomy.
TRUTH: The risk of a woman’s developing breast cancer goes down by 90 percent after a mastectomy. However, 10 percent may still develop breast cancer at the operative scar site or if the cancer has spread and was not detected when the mastectomy has been done.
9) MYTH: Needle biopsies may cause the spread of the breast cancer to other parts of the body.
TRUTH: After numerous researches has been done on this diagnostic procedure, it has been found that the needle and other instruments used in biopsies will not disturb the cancer cells and cause them to spread or metastasise.
10) MYTH: Women at risk of breast cancer can only monitor if she will develop this dreaded disease.
TRUTH: There are modifiable risk factors that can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A woman who is obese can lower her risk by going on a healthy diet and doing regular exercise. Quitting smoking and drinking alcohol can also reduce risk. Women with known BRCA gene mutations can go for prophylactic mastectomy, like what actress Angelina Jolie had done.