Pinktober: Fight like a girl!

12 myths about breast cancer, totally debunked

With new theories popping up every now and then regarding causes and symptoms of breast cancer, the level of fear and doubt associated with this disease is through the roof. In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’d like to do our part in reducing this confusion. Here are 12 myths about breast cancer and the facts that debunk them.

Myth 1

Finding a lump in your breast probably means you have breast cancer.


In reality, a very slight percentage of the lumps you find could turn out to be breast cancer, according to National Breast Cancer Foundation. However, if you notice a consistent lump, you should still get it checked even if the chances are slim, simply because your health is worth it.

Myth 2

Breast cancer mainly runs in families.


Only five to 10 percent of breast cancers are considered hereditary – as in caused by abnormal genes passed from the parents, according to Breast Cancer Organisation. Lifestyle and environmental factors are more likely to have an effect on breast cancer risk.

Myth 3

Antiperspirants or deodorants cause breast cancer.


Since such products contain potentially harmful ingredients and are applied near the breast area, scientists have suggested the possibility. According to National Cancer Institute, ample studies have been made and none found any actual evidence or direct link between them.

Myth 4

Wearing underwire can cause breast cancer.


Cancer Australia, Australia’s leading national cancer control agency, asserts that research doesn’t support the notion that they would even increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Myth 5

Breast cancer, when detected, has to be removed immediately before it spreads.


Breast cancer is not usually an emergency, unless it’s inflammatory. According to Shore Regional Health, most cancers, which would be around one cm in size, have been in the breast for eight to 10 years.

Myth 6

A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.


A mammogram or x-ray of the breast remains the ideal standard for early detection of breast cancer and breast compression during a mammogram doesn’t cause cancer to spread. According to the National Cancer Institute, “The benefits of mammography nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure. Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low.”

Myth 7

Having one or more factors indicating high risk means you will eventually get breast cancer.


According to Breast Cancer Now, some women who have higher risk of getting breast cancer never actually do while some women with low risk may get it.

Myth 8

All breast cancer patients receive the same treatments.


Since there are 15 different types of breast cancer, there is no more a cookie cutter approach when it comes to treatment. Every woman’s breast cancer is distinct and treatment should be customised according to the individual’s specific needs.

Myth 9

Breast cancer does not occur in young women.


Breast cancer can affect women of all ages but a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with age, according to Shore Regional Health.

Myth 10

Only women get breast cancer.


Breast cancer in men is usually found as a hard lump beneath the nipple and areola, and they carry a higher mortality than women because they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer.

Myth 11

If I maintain a healthy lifestyle, I won't get breast cancer.


To be clear, you should always do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle and practice healthy habits. There is ample evidence that if you eat well, don't smoke, limit or avoid alcohol, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly, you lower your risk for breast cancer. But just as the increased risk of having a family history of the disease doesn't mean you will absolutely get it, the decreased risk of living a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you absolutely won't. In other words, there is no guaranteed way to bring your chances of developing breast cancer to zero. That's why even if you're doing everything right, it's still important to perform regular self-checks and schedule your annual mammograms.

Myth 12

Breast cancer is contagious and can be spread from person to person.


While cancers can grow and spread within our own bodies, there is no evidence that breast cancer can spread from one person to another like a viral infection. In part, this is because that cells from one person's body, cancerous or otherwise, can't exist within someone else's body.