Breast Cancer Myths Debunked

Some info on breast cancer can be confusing.

Women are bombarded with information about breast cancer—and much of it is wrong. Here’s the truth behind a dozen of the most common misconceptions:

Myth: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

Fact: If you find a lump or notice any other changes in your breasts, see your healthcare provider. But eight out of 10 breast lumps are benign or not cancerous. Don’t avoid seeing your doctor because you’re afraid of what he or she may find. Take charge of your health by doing routine breast self exams and having regular mammograms.

Myth: Men don’t get breast cancer.

Fact: Each year, approximately 1,900 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Men should give themselves regular breast self exams and mention any changes, such as skin dimpling or puckering, redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin, to their doctors, too.

Myth: Pregnancy increases the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Fact: There’s been a concern that if you were treated for breast cancer in the past, high hormone levels during pregnancy might increase the chance of the cancer coming back. But pregnancy doesn’t increase this risk—as long as the cancer didn’t spread beyond the breast and your treatment was successful. Doctors often counsel women to wait at least two years after breast cancer treatment before becoming pregnant, as most recurrences happen during that time.

Myth: If you have a family history of breast cancer, you’re destined to get diagnosed, too.

Fact: Women who have a family history of breast cancer are at higher risk, but a family history isn’t a death sentence. If any of the women in your family have had breast cancer, get a yearly mammogram and/or MRI starting at the age your doctor specifies. And even if you have a greater risk, your doctor may recommend preventive medications or surgery to lower your likelihood of developing the disease.

Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk of getting the disease.

Fact: About 70% of breast cancer cases occur in women with no obvious risk factors, including a family history. Having a family history of the disease increases your risk. However, not having a family history of breast cancer does not eliminate all risk.

Myth: Using antiperspirants and deodorants causes breast cancer.

Fact: According to the American Cancer Society, there’s no proof that using antiperspirants or deodorants causes breast cancer. Some people claim that these products contain harmful ingredients that could be absorbed through the skin or small nicks caused by shaving, but there’s no evidence to support this.

Myth: Wearing an underwire bra increase your risk of getting breast cancer.

Fact: There have been claims that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system causing toxins to accumulate in the breast tissue and increasing the likelihood of breast cancer. There is no scientific proof of this. The consensus in the medical community is that underwire bras or the tightness of your underwear have no connection to breast cancer.

Myth: Breast implants increase your breast cancer risk.

Fact: Research does not show that breast implants increase a woman’s breast cancer risk. However, implants can make it more difficult to detect breast cancer. Women with implants sometimes need additional screening exams besides a mammogram.

Myth: Small breasted women have a lower chance of getting breast cancer.

Fact: Your breast size does not affect your risk of getting breast cancer. All women, regardless of breast size, should get regular breast cancer screenings.

Myth: Caffeine causes breast cancer.

Fact: No evidence has been found that caffeine may cause breast cancer. It may contribute to breast tenderness though.

Myth: Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of getting breast cancer.

Fact: Mammograms do use radiation. However, the dose is so small that the potential drawbacks are far outweighed by the benefit of finding breast cancer early. Mammograms can detect breast cancer well before it can be felt. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better a woman’s chance of survival.

Myth: If your mammogram is negative, you don’t have to worry about breast cancer.

Fact: Mammograms are currently the best routine screening tool available for breast cancer. However, they are not perfect and do not detect cancer 100% of the time. Women with an average risk of getting breast cancer should have an annual clinical exam by their physician and perform a breast self examination monthly in addition to an annual mammogram.

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