There are numerous misconceptions, or myths, floating around about who is or isn't likely to get breast cancer. And, we believe it is important to address a few of these common breast cancer myths.
Clearing up any misconceptions that you may have about breast cancer can bring awareness and understanding to this common disease. So allow our breast cancer specialists dispel some of these myths and misconceptions.
1. Only "Older Women" Get Breast Cancer
This is actually TWO myths disguised as one statement. Many women often think they can't get breast cancer unless they're old, but the fact is that almost one quarter of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 50.
While more women develop breast cancer, it still does occur in men. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, over 2,000 men are diagnosed breast cancer annually. It is just as crucial for a man who notices any changes in male breast tissue, including hard lump(s) underneath the nipple or areola, to follow up with his primary care doctor.
2. Breast Cancer is Genetic
Women often think they can’t get breast cancer if it doesn’t run in their family. This is incorrect. The truth is the vast majority of breast cancers are not the result of an inherited gene mutation (or genetics.)
While, it is not scientifically clear why some women with a low risk for developing breast cancer will develop the disease, while others at a potentially higher risk do not. But we do know that hereditary factors do not cause most breast cancers. According to Breastcancer.org, only 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases result from genetic syndromes.
Genetic testing is frequently recommended for those with a family history of breast cancer. For more information on testing or to schedule a consultation with a Compass Oncology Genetic Counselor call 503.297.7403 or visit our genetic testing section on our website.
That’s why it’s important to start getting your mammograms regularly at age forty. The changes in the breast over time often alert the radiologist to finding breast cancers. Too many women put off having their mammogram because they are afraid of what they may find. The truth is when diagnosed early breast cancer has more than a 95% survival rate.
Which leads us to our third myth...
3. Mammograms can Spread Breast Cancer
Some people unknowingly believe that mammograms can cause breast cancer to spread. Whether is be because of the radiation or from the physical compression of the tumor from the imaging process. Neither of these things is true.
Mammograms are one reason that deaths from breast cancer have declined. Thanks to the imagines produced by mammograms, doctors are able to detect breast cancer earlier, when it is more treatable. While mammograms deliver a small amount of radiation, the benefit of annual mammograms in women over the age of 40 outweighs the potential risks. If you still have concerns regarding mammogram screening, be sure to discuss them with your gynecologist or primary care doctor. They will be able to explain why he or she feels mammograms are appropriate for you.
4. Breast Cancer is Caused by Deodorant and Antiperspirants
There just simply isn't enough evidence to back this statement. In fact, the National Cancer Institute states that there is no conclusive evidence to show a link between antiperspirant or deodorant use and breast cancer development. This means they have reviewed studies that have claimed there is a link and decided there was insufficient evidence. The NCI also reviewed these studies and believe that they have failed to demonstrate any relationship between breast cancer development and deodorant/antiperspirant use.
Bonus: A lump in your breast always indicates breast cancer.
There are many potential causes of a lump in your breast, but most of them are not because of the development of breast cancer.
These include the natural changes that occur with aging or any trauma, such as a physical blow, that happened while you were younger. However, it is still important to follow up with your physician if you notice a lump or change in breast tissue. Being proactive is the best way to detect cancer early, so if it is the reason for your lump, you can be referred to a breast cancer specialist as soon as possible.
The Real Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
There are a variety of factors that can increase your risk of breast cancer. And, some risk factors that, if controlled, can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. This can be done by maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and keeping daily alcohol consumption minimum.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors you CAN Control
- Being overweight
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Long-term use of menopausal hormone therapy
- Birth control
- An inactive or sedentary lifestyle
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer you CANNOT Control
- Being a woman
- Certain genetic mutations
- Dense breast tissue
- Family history
- Personal history of another cancer
Knowledge Equals Awareness
Now that you've learned the truth when it comes to some of these misunderstandings, take your newfound knowledge and share it with your friends and family who may also believe these myths. Many people have heard these myths and have no reason to believe otherwise. However, busting these common myths about breast cancer can help you be informed about what's real when it comes to this disease.
Originally published August 2016. Updated June 2020.