Please pardon the pointed pun in the title of this week’s blog, but I have discovered there are many misconceptions about breast cancer that have been debunked and should be addressed.
To accurately bust 15 myths surrounding breast cancer, I turned to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., which provides the important truths to better inform you in light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Myth – A breast injury can cause breast cancer.
Injuries to the breasts do not cause breast cancer. There may be pain, swelling, and bruising, but generally, these injuries will heal on their own.
Myth – Breast cancer is more common among women with bigger breasts.
There is no connection between breast size and cancer risk, although, it can be more challenging to examine larger breasts. However, obesity and dense breasts may be a risk factor for breast cancer, as well as a family history of the disease.
Myth – Breast cancer only affects middle-aged or older women.
While most cases of breast cancer do occur in middle-aged or older women, a breast cancer diagnosis can happen at any age or any time. In fact, approximately 9% of all new cases of breast cancer occur in women under the age of 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Myth – Breast pain is a definite sign of breast cancer.
Breast pain is not typically a symptom of breast cancer. One surgeon estimates that only around 1% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer after feeling pain in their breasts. Conversely, women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer will report feeling pain.
Myth – Consuming sugar causes breast cancer.
While sugar isn’t known for its health benefits, it does not cause breast cancer. Many doctors and health experts encourage patients to reduce or limit sugar intake because it is addictive and can contribute to mood swings, obesity, and illness. Weight gain and obesity, in particular, can increase the incidence of many cancers; however, sugar itself does not help tumors grow, as some myths hypothesize.
Myth – Carrying a phone in your bra can cause breast cancer.
While carrying your cell phone in your bra may not be the most comfortable choice, it does not cause breast cancer. Studies on mobile phone signals have shown no link between phone use and cancer.
Myth –All breast cancers are the same.
There are many different types of breast cancer—which are determined by the specific cells in the breast that become cancer—and each type has different features and considerations. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), for instance, is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells are found in the lining of the breast milk duct where the atypical cells have not spread, making it very treatable. Metastatic breast cancer, or Stage 4, means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. There is also male breast cancer, breast cancer during pregnancy, and several other types. You can learn more about the various types of breast cancer here.
Myth – Bras with underwire can cause breast cancer.
No matter what the type, bras do not cause cancer. There is no evidence to support the myth that lymph fluid is restricted when wearing an underwire bra (which sparked this myth decades ago) or any other type of clothing, although bras that do not fit well can cause discomfort and swelling. Likewise, no evidence supports the idea that going braless reduces the risk of breast cancer. Ultimately, it is important to find a bra that fits well and suits your lifestyle, whether you prefer underwires or not; many department stores now offer bra-fitting services.
Myth – Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.
Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast that is new or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. It is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam. He or she may possibly order breast imaging studies to determine if this lump is of concern or not.
Myth – Men do not get breast cancer; it affects women only.
This year it is estimated that approximately 2,800 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 530 will die. While this percentage is still small, men should also check themselves periodically by doing a breast self-exam while in the shower and reporting any changes to their physicians.
Myth – A mammogram can cause breast cancer or spread it.
A mammogram, or x-ray of the breast, currently remains the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Breast compression while getting a mammogram cannot cause cancer nor does it spread it. In fact, tighter compression during a mammogram leads to clearer images that are easier for the radiologist to read.
Myth – If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer, too.
While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, most women who have breast cancer have no family history. Statistically only about 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.
Myth – Breast cancer is contagious.
You cannot catch breast cancer or transfer it to someone else’s body. Breast cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth of mutated cells that begin to spread into other tissues within the breast.
Myth – If the gene mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2 is detected in your DNA, you will definitely develop breast cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), regarding families who are known to carry BRCA1 or BRCA2, “not every woman in such families carries a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, and not every cancer in such families is linked to a harmful mutation in one of these genes. Furthermore, not every woman who has a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation will develop breast and/or ovarian cancer. But, a woman who has inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 is about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman who does not have such a mutation.”
Myth – Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.
Researchers at the NCI are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.
At Home Helpers® Clearwater, I employ amazing, compassionate caregivers who help senior women and men every day, and each one of them is ready, willing, and able to help with transportation assistance to and from doctor appointments, mammograms, and treatments for breast cancer. This also includes assisting with personal care, light housekeeping, respite care for weary family caregivers, and so much more.
I welcome the opportunity to meet you or your senior loved one for a FREE Consultation to identify specific ways we can help. After our discussion, I can develop a customized care plan for our journey together and my Home Helpers® team can begin Making Life Easier℠ for you and your family sooner than later.
National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.