If you’ve ever been concerned about your risk for breast cancer or simply wanted some information, you might have noticed the sheer number of valid, not-so-valid, and sometimes downright questionable claims about it online. It’s time these myths were put to rest, starting with:
Myth 1: Men do not get breast cancer
Although breast cancer is commonly thought to be a disease that mostly affects women, men also have breast tissue, which makes them susceptible to the disease. While there is truth to the assertion that breast cancer is more common in women, statistics from the American Cancer Society indicate that around 2,550 new cases of male breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2018, and about 480 men will die in the same year.
Myth 2: Finding a lump in your breast is a sure-fire sign of breast cancer
Disclaimer: never ignore a lump in your breast or any changes in your breast tissue. See your health provider if you notice any changes in your breasts.
That said, lumps are just one of many possible symptoms of breast cancer. It should be stressed, however, that it is important to be familiar with how your breasts feel and look to establish a baseline of what is and isn’t normal. Some lumps are caused by non-cancerous growths, but always have your healthcare provider check to be sure.
Myth 3: Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, studies published in 2002, 2003, and 2006 failed to find any conclusive evidence that links deodorant use and breast cancer risk.
Myth 4: Breast cancer runs in the family
Because breast cancer is so prevalent, it’s common enough to hear of one or two people in an extended family who have had breast cancer. However, most cases of breast cancer can be attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors. Only around 5% to 10% of cases are attributable to genetic mutations inherited from a parent.
Myth 5: You don’t have breast cancer if you have no symptoms
Many types of cancer, including breast cancer, often have no symptoms in their early stages. This is why it is important to have regular mammograms, especially if you are at an age with increased susceptibility to the disease. Regular self-checks and mammograms allow doctors to detect and diagnose the disease in its early stages, allowing the patient to take advantage of more treatment options.
Myth 6: Cell phones/cell towers/power lines/microwaves cause cancer
The energy emitted by power lines, cell phones, cell towers, etc., is a type of low-frequency radiation that does not damage genes. Moreover, if you’ve ever tried maintaining a conversation on your mobile phone in an apartment with thick walls, you would know for a fact that the magnetic and electric energy emitted by electronic devices is very easily dampened and obstructed by other objects.
Myth 7: Certain drugs can prevent breast cancer
Some people believe that there are drugs, although with significant side effects, can ultimately prevent breast cancer. That simply isn’t true. There is a so-called “chemoprevention” medication that is given to healthy women to reduce their risk of developing cancer.
While that sounds exciting, it comes with serious side effects that can potentially outweigh the benefits. Most importantly, we don’t know if the reduction in risk is short-term or if it can help decrease the chance of mortality. There is still so much to learn about the effects of these drugs. There’s also the concern about giving risk reduction medication to healthy women because many of them will never get breast cancer, whether they take the drug or not.
Myth 8: Newer treatments can now cure the disease
While we’ve been seeing medical breakthroughs for cancer, there’s still so much we need to know about the disease. We currently have a more targeted approach to therapy and treatment, but experts still don’t know for certain when cancers will spread or come back, and which ones will not.
On a more positive note, many breast cancer survivors are now celebrating 10, 20, 30 or more years of being “cancer-free.” From 1975 to 2010, we have seen an amazing decrease in the number of mortality rates. Although no one knows for sure the direct cause of this improvement, many attribute it to the introduction of better treatments.
Myth 9: Monthly breast self-examinations detect cancer early
For many years, women age 20 and up are taught through pamphlets, shower cards, videos, and silicone breast models on how to spot a lump in their breast. These materials are marketed as a life-saving personal responsibility. Seems realistic, but there is actually no substantial evidence to prove this is accurate and it may be doing more harm than good.
Recent studies reveal that doing this monthly self-exams can increase anxiety and lead to needless biopsies of benign lumps. Many organizations like the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the American Cancer Society are fighting against teaching BSE and are phasing out materials that focus on this.
Myth 10: You have to choose a treatment immediately after diagnosis
Having diagnosed with breast cancer is absolutely terrifying, and you might feel the need to rush into treatment immediately. However, it is also important to take your time to learn what you can about your diagnosis, as well as all possible options and their side effects before diving right into treatment.
Remember that you have enough time, so think about all the factors carefully. Second opinions are also extremely valuable and it is recommended to everyone diagnosed with any type of cancer. Making an informed decision can do wonders for the speed of your recovery.
Breasts cancer myths only cause unnecessary concern and panic. Now that you are aware of these facts, inform your friends and relatives, and stop the spread of falsehoods surrounding the topic. For safe and accurate breast cancer information, call New Hope Unlimited helpline at 480-666-1403. From screening to survivorship, we are here to keep you informed every step of the way.