When it comes to breast cancer, there’s a lot of information out there. While much of it’s true, some of it’s just plain false. Take a look at these top myths.
Myth 1. If you feel a lump in your breast, it means you have breast cancer
Most breast lumps aren’t breast cancer. A lump, which can vary in size based on the time of the menstrual cycle, may be due to a fibrocystic condition. And its location may feel similar when you do a self-exam on both breasts.
Fibrocystic conditions of the breast are common in women from 20 years of age until menopause. A lump felt in only one breast may be a benign or noncancerous tumor. But, just to be sure, talk to your doctor if you feel a lump in your breast.
Myth 2. If you feel pain in your breast, it means you have breast cancer
It’s common for women of childbearing age to feel pain in their breasts at certain times during their menstrual cycles, especially just before their periods.
But if you’re concerned about pain in your breast, regardless of your age, see your doctor for an exam.
Myth 3. If you have no symptoms in your breasts, it means you don’t have breast cancer
Many people diagnosed with breast cancer have no symptoms. In addition to self-examinations and annual breast exams, you should have regular mammograms if you fall in the recommended age range for screening.
The schedule for regular mammograms depends on your age. Mammograms help to detect breast cancer before it causes symptoms, allowing you to get early diagnosis and treatment.
Myth 4. If after you have a routine mammogram your doctor recommends that you have further testing, it means you have breast cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, only 1 out of 20 women called back for further testing after screening mammograms are confirmed positive for breast cancer.
Myth 5. Having breast cancer means that you’ll lose your breast
Not everyone with breast cancer who elects surgery has to undergo a complete mastectomy. Different types of breast-conserving surgery are possible, depending on the extent of the tumor.
Many women with early stage breast cancer can have effective treatment with surgical removal of the tumor called a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy.
Even if you had a complete mastectomy, you may be a candidate for surgical reconstruction of the breast.
Myth 6. Having breast cancer means that you will have to have chemotherapy
Whether chemotherapy is recommended to reduce the likelihood of recurrence for early stage breast cancer depends on the type, stage, and recurrence score of the breast cancer.
The recurrence score helps determine if you will benefit from chemotherapy. Some with early stage or advanced stage breast cancer receive hormone therapy or therapy targeted to the HER2 receptors (if the breast cancer type is HER2-positive) on the surface of their cancer cells. Sometimes this is recommended instead of chemotherapy or in addition to chemotherapy.
Myth 7. Having breast cancer means that you will lose your hair
Chemotherapy medicines affect rapidly dividing cells, like cancer cells, more than other cells. Because hair follicles in the skin of the scalp and body contain rapidly dividing cells, hair follicles can be damaged by certain types of chemo.
Certain chemo medications cause complete hair loss. Other chemo drugs may cause variable hair loss in some women.
Some chemo drugs aren’t associated with hair loss. Due to various treatment options, some people treated for breast cancer don’t lose their hair.
Myth 8. Most women with breast cancer have or had a family member with breast cancer
Approximately 90 percent of breast cancers are associated with lifestyle and environmental factors. According to the American Cancer Society, factors that can increase you risk of developing breast cancer include:
- alcohol consumption
- certain oral contraceptives
- being overweight or obese after menopause
- environmental toxins
Only an estimated 5 to 10 percent of cases of breast cancer are associated with gene mutations inherited from a parent.
Myth 9. Underwire bras can cause breast cancer
A 2014 study showed no significant difference in risk of breast cancer between women wearing and not wearing bras with underwire. The connection between bras and breast cancer isn’t supported by any reputable, peer-reviewed epidemiological journal.
Myth 10. Deodorants and antiperspirants can cause breast cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, no scientific research has shown that use of deodorants or antiperspirants results in breast cancer.
Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have proof that any of the ingredients in underarm deodorants or antiperspirants cause cancer.
Myth 11. Only adult women get breast cancer
Although breast cancer can occur in females of any age, it’s rare in children and teenagers. A review article in the journal Seminars in Plastic Surgery reported that only one in a million females under the age of 20 develop breast cancer. The symptom usually is a large, hard lump.
Myth 12. Only females get breast cancer
Breast cancer in women is approximately 100 times more common than in men. But, according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 2,470 men in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive types of breast cancer in 2017.
Symptoms in men include a lump beneath their nipple and color change in the surrounding area.
Men should perform regular self-exams. Due to lack of awareness about the existence of breast cancer in men, they tend not to seek a diagnosis right away, so the cancer is more difficult to treat or cure.