Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. According to breastcancer.org, slightly less than 12 percent of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. While the cause of breast cancer is not known, certain risk factors have been identified, such as being overweight and having a family history of breast cancer. As with many types of cancers, information about breast cancer can be confusing, and misinformation can lead to a plethora of myths being passed amongst the populace. Not only can myths cause unnecessary worry, they can prevent some people from understanding their risk of the disease. Below are 10 common myths about breast cancer, debunked.
Although older women do tend to get breast cancer more often than younger women, the disease can affect women of all ages. According to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, a quarter of all breast cancers diagnosed each year are in women under 40 years old.
Breast lumps occur for a variety of reasons and in many cases, cancer is not the cause. Lumps may be due to cysts or benign tumors. Many women also get fibrosis in their breast tissue, which causes firmness in spots and can be mistaken for lumps. Although in many instances breast lumps are harmless, they should always be checked out by a doctor.
The breast cancer gene mutation including BRCA1 or BRCA2 has been identified as a gene that increases a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer. Identifying the gene mutation is a helpful screening tool in determining a woman’s risk of the cancer (see: 10 Common Breast Cancer Risk Factors), but having the gene does not guarantee a woman will develop the disease. If you test positive for the breast cancer gene mutation it is important to speak with your doctor about your risk and options available.
What may surprise some people is that about 85 percent of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Although women with a close relative with breast cancer do have a higher risk of developing it, women should be aware you do not have to have a family history to develop breast cancer.
There is a lot of information in circulation regarding the causes of breast cancer, some of which is erroneous. For example, information has been written about antiperspirant causing breast cancer, which according to the National Cancer Institute, is untrue. Caffeine and breast implants have also been blamed as causes of breast cancer, but this also appears to lack any evidence.
It is important to understand, breast size has nothing to do with a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Women of all breast sizes develop the disease and need proper screening as recommended by their doctor in order to detect the cancer early.
Mastectomy is an option for treating breast cancer, but not the only one. Lumpectomy, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy are also common treatments for the disease. Treatment plans will vary depending on the type of breast cancer, stage of the disease and a woman’s overall health.
A common myth surrounding the causes of breast cancer is fertility treatments lead to the disease. This belief may have started since hormones are often used in fertility treatments, which some may have believed would stimulate breast cancer to develop. Although addition long term studies are needed, currently fertility treatments do not appear to increase a woman’s chance of breast cancer, according to the Susan J. Komen for the Cure Foundation.
While getting a mammogram as recommend by your doctor is an essential part of breast cancer screening, it may not detect all breast cancers. Monthly self breast exams and routine exams by your doctor are also critical for proper breast cancer screening.
When you think of breast cancer, you may think it is only a woman’s cancer, but men can also develop breast cancer. Although it occurs much less frequently, over 2000 men in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. In addition, men have a higher morality rate with breast cancer than women do. One theory why men die from the disease more often than women is they may be diagnosed in a later stage of the disease.
Since there are many unanswered questions concerning breast cancer, misconceptions and myths can develop. Separating reality from myth is a critical part of becoming informed and educated about breast cancer. Understanding the risk factors, screening techniques and treatment options helps both men and women take control of their health.