25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted
Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk.
Reality: Roughly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors for the disease. But the family-history risks are these: If a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) has had or has breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease approximately doubles. Having two first-degree relatives with the disease increases your risk even more.
Myth: Wearing an underwire bra increases your risk of getting breast cance
Myth: Most breast lumps are cancerous.
Myth: Exposing a tumor to air during surgery causes cancer to spread.
Your doctor may find out during surgery that your cancer is more widespread than previously thought, however. And some animal studies have shown that removing the primary tumor sometimes enables metastatic cancers to grow, but only temporarily; this has not been demonstrated in humans.
Myth: Breast implants can raise your cancer risk.
Myth: All women have a 1-in-8 chance of getting breast cancer.
Myth: Wearing antiperspirant increases your risk of getting breast cancer.
Parabens, used as preservatives in some antiperspirants, have weak estrogen-like properties, but the study in question made no cause-and-effect connection between parabens and breast cancer, nor did it conclusively identify the source of the parabens found in tumors.
Myth: Small-breasted women have less chance of getting breast cancer.
Reality: There's no connection between the size of your breasts and your risk of getting breast cancer. Very large breasts may be harder to examine than small breasts, with clinical breast exams—and even mammograms and MRIs—more difficult to conduct. But all women, regardless of breast size, should commit to routine screenings and checkups.
Myth: Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.
Breast cancer can also spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause swelling there before a tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt. On the other hand, a mammogram may pick up breast cancer that has no outward symptoms at all.
Myth: You can't get breast cancer after a mastectomy.
Myth: Your father's family history of breast cancer doesn't affect your risk as much as your mother's.
Myth: Caffeine causes breast cancer.
Myth: If you're at risk for breast cancer, there's little you can do but watch for the signs.
Some high-risk women also choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy to decrease their risk by roughly 90%. They can take other proactive steps such as having regular MRIs, exploring chemoprevention with treatments such as tamoxifen, and participating in clinical trials.
Myth: Women with lumpy breasts (also known as fibrocystic breast changes) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Reality: In the past, women with lumpy, dense, or fibrocystic breasts were believed to be at higher risk of getting breast cancer, but there doesn't appear to be a connection after all. However, when you have lumpy breasts, it it can be trickier to differentiate normal tissue from cancerous tissue, so you may experience false alarms. Women with fibrocystic breasts often follow up their mammograms with an ultrasound.
Myth: Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of cancer.
Myth: Needle biopsies can disturb cancer cells and cause them to spread to other parts of the body.
Myth: After heart disease, breast cancer is the nation's leading killer of women.
Myth: If your mammography report is negative, there is nothing else to worry about.
Myth: Hair straighteners cause breast cancer in African-American women.
Myth: Removing the entire breast gives you a better chance of surviving cancer than having a lumpectomy with radiation therapy.
Myth: Overweight women have the same breast cancer risk as other women.
Myth: Fertility treatments increase the risk of getting breast cancer.
Myth: Living near power lines can cause breast cancer.
Myth: Having an abortion raises your risk of getting breast cancer.
Myth: Breast cancer is preventable.
Think you know it all? Test your breast cancer knowledge.