Let's sort breast cancer fact from fiction. Now is a good time to learn more about this often misunderstood disease.
- Myth: You’re only at risk if someone in your family has breast cancer.
Fact: Only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are hereditary. Approximately 70 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors.
- Myth: Monthly self-exams make no difference.
Fact: No screening method is perfect. It’s wise to increase your chance of early detection by performing self-exams so you can detect changes early. Report any changes to your doctor.
- Myth: Small-breasted women are less likely to get breast cancer.
Fact: Breast size has nothing to do with breast cancer. Regardless of breast size, all women need routine screenings and checkups. It may be harder to examine and detect changes in larger breasts.
- Myth: Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.
Fact: There are many changes in the breast that can indicate a sign of cancer, including thickening, swelling, redness, darkening or pain.
- Myth: Breast cancer is a “one size fits all” disease.
Fact: There are many different types of breast cancer. Likewise, not all tumors grow at the same rate or spread in the same way. There are many factors that go into breast cancer diagnoses and treatment, and no two are exactly the same.
- Myth: Radiation from annual mammograms increases your risk of breast cancer.
Fact: The amount of radiation used in a mammography is small compared to the preventive benefits of the mammogram. Mammograms help detect lumps well before they can be felt or otherwise noticed. According to the American Cancer Society External Site, women age 40 and older should receive a screening mammogram every one to two years.
- Myth: Older women don’t need mammograms.
Fact: The risk of breast cancer increases with age, with the highest incidence occurring in women in their 70s.
- Myth: Antiperspirant causes breast cancer.
Fact: More research is needed to study this issue. Parabens, which are preservatives used in some antiperspirants, do have weak estrogen-like properties. One small study did find traces of parabens in a tiny sample of cancerous tumors. Subsequent studies have been unable to make a connection between the two.
- Myth: Your mother’s history of breast cancer is the only important genetic link.
Fact: It is just as important to know your father’s family history, particularly the health history of women on your father’s side of the family. Other cancers in men, such as colon or early-onset prostate cancers, should be considered when determining your risk.
- Myth: Women with lumpy, fibrocystic breasts are more at risk.
Fact: Once considered a breast cancer factor, this is no longer seen as a risk. Lumpy, fibrocystic breasts do make it more difficult to distinguish normal tissue from cancerous tissue.