Many women today still don't understand the risk of breast cancer. But how can they when they're constantly bombarded by misinformation? The word 'cancer' is enough to freak most people out, so it's not
surprising how certain misconceptions can stem from the fear of it. Below is a quick list to help you distinguish between fact and fiction:
MYTH 1: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk.
70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors for the disease, meaning that the disease occurs largely by chance and according to as-yet-unexplained factors. As for the family-history risk: if a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) has had or has breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease is doubled. Having two first-degree relatives with the disease increases your risk even more.
MYTH 2: Most breast lumps are cancerous.
Many women have lumpy breasts, and some are also painful. Roughly 80% of these lumps
are caused by benign (noncancerous) changes, cysts,
or other conditions. Doctors will usually recommend a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy to
determine if a lump is cancerous. But if you do notice a lump, skin change, or
something about your breast that is not normal for you, seek expert advice.
MYTH 3: Women under 40 don't get breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older receive a screening mammogram every one to two years. While a woman's risk of developing breast cancer does increase with age, women of all ages can also develop breast cancer.
MYTH 4: Men don't get breast cancer.
Women develop breast cancer at a higher rate, but that doesn't mean that men aren't at risk. This is because the BRCA gene mutation can also affect male breast tissue, making them susceptible to five different types of breast cancer.
MYTH 5: Wearing an underwire bra increases your breast cancer risk.
The theory involving underwire bras causing toxins to accumulate in breast tissue resulting in cancer has been deemed as unscientifically proven. The truth is that neither the type of bra you wear, the tightness of your underwear or other clothing has any connection to breast cancer risk.
MYTH 6: Breast implants raise your breast cancer risk.
Women with breast implants are at no greater risk of getting breast cancer. Implants can get in the way of standard mammograms, which would require additional X-rays in order to fully examine breast tissue. Some theorize that this might hamper their chances of getting diagnosed early.
MYTH 7: Deodorant increases your risk of getting breast cancer.
This stems from a small study which found traces of parabens (preservatives found in some deodorant) in a tiny sample of breast cancer tumors. But the study made no cause-and-effect connection between parabens and breast cancer, nor did it conclusively identify the source of the parabens found in tumors.
MYTH 8: Small-breasted women have a lower breast cancer risk.
There is no connection between the size of your breasts and your risk of getting breast cancer. Larger breasts are difficult to examine simply because there's more tissue to look through.
MYTH 9: Caffeine causes breast cancer.
There has been no causal connection found between drinking caffeine and getting breast cancer. Also, studies on whether breast soreness may be linked to caffeine have been inconclusive. In fact, some researches even suggest that caffeine may actually lower your risk.
MYTH 10: Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of cancer.
The amount of radiation used in mammography is so small that any associated risks are minor compared to the preventive benefits of getting checked. This is because mammograms can detect lumps way before they can be felt or otherwise noticed. And the earlier that lumps are caught, the better one's chances for survival is.
MYTH 11: If your mammography report is negative, there is nothing else to worry about.
Mammograms are only 80% accurate, but they're still the best tool we have in early detection. This is also why clinical breast exams and self-exams are also crucial elements of the annual screening process.
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