While there is a lot of good information regarding breast cancer, there’s also misinformation that continues to be spread about this potentially life-threatening disease. Here are five common myths regarding breast cancer and the real truth about each one.
1. Women with a family history of breast cancer are the only ones at risk.
This is a very dangerous myth. While women who have a familial history of breast cancer are indeed in a higher risk group, the truth is that most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history at all. Women in their 20s and 30s should start getting clinical breast exams every three years, and women 40 and older should be getting mammograms every year unless otherwise directed by a physician. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by a family history that’s free of breast cancer. Remember: The earlier breast cancer is caught, the greater the chances of stopping its spread and sending it into remission.
2. Monthly breast self-exams are enough to monitor your health.
Monitoring your health by doing a breast self-exam can be useful, but don’t rely on it solely in regards to detecting breast cancer. It is very possible to either feel a benign lump and assume that it’s cancer, or not feel anything at all when there are cancerous cells forming in the breast tissue. Having said that, if you feel something unusual during a breast self-exam, make an appointment with your doctor, but the best thing to do is have regular mammograms performed to assure your good health.
3. Finding a lump means you definitely have breast cancer
Because of the nature of breast tissue, lumps are frequently present within the breasts that are not in any way cancerous. In fact, only a small percentage of lumps found in breast tissues wind up being diagnosed as cancerous. This is not to say that a lump should be ignored. Take it seriously and schedule an appointment with your physician, but try not to stress until you know what it is that you’re dealing with. After your physician checks you, they may request breast imaging tests to determine whether or not the lump is cause for concern.
4. Wearing an underwire bra can increase your risk of breast cancer.
This is a myth that has been circulating for a long time; however, these claims have widely been disregarded as untrue by the scientific community. The claims for this myth are that bras containing an underwire press on the lymphatic system of the breasts which causes toxins to gather, causing breast cancer. Studies conducted on this subject have revealed that the type of bra has nothing to do with your risk for breast cancer.
5. Breast cancer is preventable.
Breast cancer is not preventable. That’s not to say you can’t decrease your risk by making changes to your lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, exercising regularly, keeping annual appointments for breast cancer screenings and reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption can help reduce your risk for breast cancer. Unfortunately, most women diagnosed with breast cancer, nearly 70 percent, do not have identifiable risk factors.
Dr. Puja Sehgal is a board-certified Family Medicine physician. She works with patients to give them knowledge regarding prevention and management of illness. She develops relationships with her patients by customizing their treatment based on their beliefs and cultural practices.