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Top 15 Myths & Facts about Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is certainly a hot topic, but sadly, there's a load of wrong information about this disease out there. Misconceptions range from who can get it, and what triggers it, to likely outcomes. This makes the whole ordeal of a breast cancer diagnosis even harder to cope with. Let's bust some common breast cancer myths today and map out the facts from the fiction.

Statistics about Breast Cancer

Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the US and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer after skin cancer. Every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the country. 65% of cases are detected at a localized stage, and there are over 3.8 million survivors in the US.

Top 15 Myths about Breast Cancer

1. Myth: Every Woman With Breast Cancer Needs a Mastectomy

When faced with early-stage breast cancer, women often have the choice between breast-conserving surgery (BCS) or mastectomy. In the majority of cases, lumpectomy combined with radiation therapy has been shown to provide higher survival rates compared to mastectomy, regardless of whether radiation therapy is included or not.

2. Myth: Breast Cancer Is Not Hereditary

Approximately 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are considered to be hereditary, resulting from genetic mutations passed down within families. The most prevalent cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. To ensure proper diagnosis and treatment, it is crucial to inform your oncologist or surgeon about your family's cancer history or lack thereof. Genetic testing, typically conducted through a blood test, can help identify these genetic mutations.

3. Myth: Excess Sugar Intake Causes Breast Cancer

There is no evidence to support the claim that sugar causes or fuels breast cancer. While cancer cells consume sugar at a faster rate than normal cells, there is no scientific evidence linking excessive sugar intake to the development of cancer. However, it is well-established that consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to weight gain, which is a known risk factor for breast cancer.

4. Myth: Mammograms Can Transmit Breast Cancer

A mammogram, although uncomfortable, involves the flattening of breasts to ensure a high-quality image. However, it is important to note that a mammogram cannot cause or spread cancer.

5. Myth: Underarm Antiperspirant Leads to Breast Cancer

Rumors about antiperspirants causing cancer by penetrating the lymph nodes and breast cells lack evidence. Antiperspirants do not stop the release of toxic substances from underarm lymph nodes by preventing sweating. While there is no evidence of a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer, studies have found higher aluminum concentrations in breast tissue in women using aluminum products.

6. Myth: Wearing a Bra Causes Breast Cancer

A myth suggesting that wearing a bra can increase the risk of breast cancer has persisted despite no conclusive evidence. The theory of compression on the lymphatic system causing toxins to build up in breast tissue has been debunked and hence there is no link between bra-wearing and breast cancer was found.

7. Myth: Breast Cancer Occurs If You’re Over 40

Although the main risk factors for breast cancer are being female and aging, it can also affect younger women and men. From 2000 to 2014, 5.6% of invasive breast cancer diagnoses were in women under 40 in the U.S. The American Cancer Society predicts 2,710 new cases and around 530 male deaths from breast cancer in 2022.

8. Myth: Breast Cancer Always Starts with a Lump

Early stages of breast cancer may not cause a lump; instead, watch for symptoms like swelling, pain, dimpling, or an inverted nipple. Regular screenings and self-examinations are crucial for early detection. Consult a cancer care specialist if you notice any changes in your breasts.

9. Myth: Breast Cancer Doesn’t Cause Pain

Breast cancer pain is not typically an early symptom; however, fast-growing cancers can be painful. Occasional breast pain can be caused by hormones, cysts, or stress. If it is localized to one particular area, consult a doctor.

10. Myth: Having Lumpy Breasts Makes It Harder to Detect Cancer

Mammograms are crucial for women with dense breast tissue, which affects almost half of all women. Dense tissue can make cancer detection difficult on mammograms, so alternative screening methods like 3D mammography, MRI, or ultrasound may be necessary for improved detection.

11. Myth: Cancer Care Specialists Can Diagnose Cancer by Feeling a Lump

A cancer diagnosis cannot be made through touch alone; a diagnostic biopsy is required. Regular self-examination of breasts for any lumps or changes is crucial, and any changes should be discussed with a doctor, who may recommend a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy depending on the individual's age and findings.

12. Myth: Nipple Discharge is a Sign of Cancer

Nipple discharge is usually harmless and can result from hormonal changes or leftover milk after breastfeeding. However, unsolicited discharge or one containing blood may be concerning and should be checked by a doctor from a reputed cancer treatment center to rule out cancer.

13. Myth: Placing the Phone in Your Bra Causes Breast Cancer

Although some reports suggest a potential link between radiofrequency waves from cell phones and tumors, there is no clinical evidence to support the claim that carrying cell phones in bras increases breast cancer risk.

14. Myth: Breast Implants Trigger Breast Cancer

Breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer, but can rarely lead to anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a cancer of the immune system. Women with textured implants have a higher risk of developing breast implant-associated ALCL (BIA-ALCL), although it is very rare and usually curable when detected early. Women aged 40+ with breast implants should continue to get annual screening mammograms and inform the technologist about their implants for appropriate imaging adjustments.

15. Myth: Men Cannot Develop Breast Cancer

Men can develop breast cancer, though it is rare with 1 in 100 diagnosed cases affecting men. Research is limited due to its low occurrence, and treatments are based on knowledge of breast cancer in women.

Final Thoughts - Early Detection Saves Lives!

Regular breast self-exams and annual mammograms are crucial for the early detection of breast cancer, leading to more effective treatments and higher survival rates.

Sierra Hematology & Oncology, the best cancer treatment center in California, offers convenient scheduling for mammograms, ensuring comfort and support throughout the process. Remember to schedule your annual mammography and remind your loved ones to do the same to improve breast cancer survivor rates.

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