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8 Breast Cancer Myths: Separating Facts From Fiction

8 Breast Cancer Myths: Separating Facts From Fiction

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By    |   Wednesday, 05 October 2016 10:39 AM

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and experts say that, despite numerous campaigns and articles about the topic, there are still gross misconceptions about risks, detection, and treatment that could put women — and some men — a risk.

Since one in eight women who live to age 85 will develop invasive breast cancer — and a whopping 246,660 new cases are expected to diagnosed this year — it’s imperative to sort fact from fiction.

“I think the most prevalent misconception that I hear in my practice is that since there isn’t a history of breast cancer in my family, I’m not at risk,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine, tells Newsmax Health.

“Well, my own sister used to say that all the time until she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. So I [thought], okay now we have a family member! The truth is that the vast majority of breast cancer patients do not have a family history of the disease.”

Here are 8 more myths and facts:

MYTH: There’s nothing you can do to prevent cancer.

TRUTH: Perhaps the most common myth about cancer is the false belief that if you are at risk — because of a genetic predisposition or family history — there’s not much you can do to prevent, but watch for signs.

But that’s simply not true, says Dr. Herman Kattlove, M.D., former spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and a professor of medicine at UCLA. He tells Newsmax Health that there is plenty you can do to reduce your odds of developing breast cancer, even if you are at risk.

“Every woman can lower her risk by sticking to a healthy diet, keeping her weight down, and exercising vigorously. I recommend jogging,” he says.

“Also, I recommend frequent mammograms for those at risk and, of course, there is always the Angelina Jolie route. Some women, about 10 percent of the population, with a strong genetic risk for breast cancer such as having the BRCA gene mutation, may opt for mastectomies which would drastically lower their risk.”

MYTH: Most lumps are cancerous.

TRUTH: Actually, most breast lumps are not malignant, says Kattlove.

“One of the problems with screening is that most lumps that are found are benign,” he notes. “It doesn’t mean that you have the disease if your doctor orders a biopsy, either. The only way to be certain is to test the tissue.”

MYTH: Lumps are the only sign of cancer.

TRUTH: In reality, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain, swelling in the armpit or any change in the size, contour, texture or temperature of the breast can also be warning signs.

“Many cancers found on mammograms are just shadows that can’t be felt,” adds Kattlove.

MYTH: Needle biopsies can disturb cancer cells and spread them to other parts of the body.

TRUTH: Biopsies are one of the few ways to confirm cancer’s presence and do not spread tumor cells.

“This old myth was never proven to be true and indeed, a biopsy is a life saving procedure if there is cancer because then it can be treated,” notes Kattlove.

MYTH: Wearing deodorant increases your risk of breast cancer.

TRUTH: The National Cancer Institute reports no conclusive evidence linking the use of either antiperspirants or deodorants to the development of breast cancer.

But a 2004 study found that parabens used as preservatives in some antiperspirants were found in 18 out of 20 breast tumor tissue samples. Other research shows that aluminum-base compounds applied frequently near the breast may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like effects.

And since breast cancer has been linked to increased levels of estrogen, it may be wise to choose products that are free or these chemicals.

MYTH: Breast implants can raise cancer risk.

TRUTH: According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, there is no scientific evidence to show that having either saline or silicone breast implants increases a woman’s cancer risk.

But Minkin points out that breast examinations may be trickier for women who have implants, so mammograms need more views to be accurate.

MYTH: Your father’s family cancer history doesn’t affect your risk.

TRUTH: Actually, the male side definitely counts, says Minkin.

“If there is a family history of breast cancer on either side, one should worry,” adds Kattlove. “And if there is a strong history of cancer — not even breast or prostate cancer — I would be concerned.”

MYTH: Wearing an underwire bra increases your breast cancer risk.

TRUTH: “I don’t know where this myth came from, but it’s definitely not true,” states Minkin. “People once thought that structured bras may block the drainage of lymphatic fluid from the breast but they don’t.”

One other thing that is definitely NOT a myth: The earlier cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat. In fact, nearly all women diagnosed with breast cancer before it spreads to other parts of the body survive it; 85 percent survive even tumors that have spread to regional lymph nodes, statistics show.

“Early detection is a woman’s best chance to find the cancer when it is most treatable and get the best care first,” says Dr. Marissa Weiss, chief medical officer, president and founder of Breastcancer.org, a valuable organization that has a wealth of information and resources for women.

She tells Newsmax Health: “Finding cancer at a curable stage can mean avoiding chemotherapy or a mastectomy. And while mammography isn’t perfect, I strongly advise women to have annual mammograms starting at age 40. It could save your life.”

© 2020 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

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Is breast cancer always genetic? Do antiperspirants cause it? The answer to these questions is no, experts note. Yet these myths — and others — persist in the minds of many. In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness month, here are a handful of myths and facts you need to know.
breast, cancer, myth, fact, biopsies, underwire, bras, antiperspirants
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 10:39 AM
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