Since 1985 the month of October has been declared Breast Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to bring awareness to breast cancer, raise money for research, and educate individuals. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, affecting approximately 13% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While many individuals have been educated on breast cancer via several successful breast cancer campaigns, many myths remain present today. I am going to delve into some of these myths and put them to rest.
1. Only those with a family history of breast cancer are at risk. FALSE
The majority of individuals who are diagnosed have no familial history of breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5-10% of breast cancer are hereditary and are related to abnormal gene mutations. So, just because breast cancer isn’t prevalent in your family doesn’t mean that you aren’t at risk.
2. There isn’t anything I can do to help reduce my risk of breast cancer. FALSE
There are some steps that you can take to lower your risk of breast cancer. Firstly, learn your family health history, especially wheatear or not breast cancer runs in your family. If you have family members with a medical history of breast cancer, discuss this with your healthcare provider, as they may recommend genetic testing and/or early screening. Another way you can help reduce your risk is by practicing healthy behaviors. Maintaining a healthy weight, participating in physical exercise, and even breastfeeding your baby can lower your risk of getting breast cancer.
3. Mammograms can cause breast cancer to spread. FALSE
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast and is the gold standard for early breast cancer detection. The breast is compressed during the test. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, it does not cause cancer to spread. The overall benefits of getting routine mammograms outweigh any potential harm from radiation exposure.
4. Deodorants can cause breast cancer. FALSE
According to the American Cancer Society, there is very little scientific evidence to support the idea that deodorants cause breast cancer. Additionally, there are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that support this claim.
5. Only women get breast cancer. FALSE
While breast cancer is more common in women, it can occur in men as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 out of every 100 breast cancer diagnoses in the United States is a man. The breast cancers found in men are the same kinds that are found in women. The most common symptoms for men include:
-A lump or swelling in the breast.
-Redness or flaky skin in the breast.
-Irritation or dimpling of the breast skin.
-Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
Risk factors for men include age above 50, genetic mutations (BRCA1 and BRCA2), family history of breast cancer, hormone therapy, Klinefelter syndrome, certain conditions that affect the testicles, liver disease, and obesity. If you experience any of the above symptoms or have any risk factors discuss them with your healthcare provider.
6. All breast lumps are cancer. FALSE
Not all lumps found in the breast are cancer. There are many other benign or non-cancerous causes for lumps in the breast. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, many breast lumps are caused by fibrosis and/or cysts, which are non-cancerous changes in the breast tissue that several women will get in their lifetime. These changes are sometimes called fibrocystic changes, previously known as fibrocystic disease.