Breast Cancer Myths

Exchange: Breast Cancer Myths

There are so many myths surrounding breast cancer that sometimes it's hard to know what's fact and what's not. Madisyn Gray is the High Risk Coordinator at the Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Center in Grand Rapids and she joins us to "debunk" some common breast cancer myths.

The Breast Cancer Myth

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

The Truth

Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. It is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam. He or she may possibly order breast imaging studies to determine if this lump is of concern or not.

Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, getting an annual clinical breast exam, and scheduling your routine screening mammograms.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Men do not get breast cancer; it affects women only.

The Truth

Quite the contrary, each year it is estimated that approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 410 will die. While this percentage is still small, men should also check themselves periodically by doing a breast self-exam while in the shower and reporting any changes to their physicians.

Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of cancer. Or cause breast cancer.

Truth

While it's true that radiation is used in mammography, the amount is so small that any associated risks are tiny when compared to the huge preventive benefits reaped from the test. Mammograms can detect lumps well before they can be felt or otherwise noticed, and the earlier that lumps are caught, the better one's chances for survival. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older receive a screening mammogram every one to two years.

The Breast Cancer Myth

If you're at risk for breast cancer, there's little you can do but watch for the signs.

Truth

There's a lot that women can do to lower their risk, including losing weight if they're obese, getting regular exercise, lowering or eliminating alcohol consumption, being rigorous about examining their own breasts, and having regular clinical exams and mammograms. Quitting smoking wouldn't hurt either.

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.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Wearing an underwire bra increases your risk of getting breast cancer

The Truth

Claims that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast, causing toxins to accumulate and cause breast cancer, have been widely debunked as unscientific. The consensus is that neither the type of bra you wear nor the tightness of your underwear or other clothing has any connection to breast cancer risk.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Breast cancer is contagious.

The Truth

You cannot catch breast cancer or transfer it to someone else's body. Breast cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth of mutated cells that begin to spread into other tissues within the breast. However, you can reduce your risk by practicing a healthy lifestyle, being aware of the risk factors, and following an early detection plan so that you will be diagnosed early if breast cancer were to occur.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.

The Truth

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

Madisyn Gray, PA-C, serves as the high risk coordinator for the Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Center in Grand Rapid.. As the only centers of their kind in West Michigan, Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Centers deliver prompt, personal, specialized care for all aspects of breast health. Here, we focus on total breast health — from screening mammograms and lifetime risk analysis to, if necessary, the latest treatments.

To learn more visit www.MercyHealthBreastCare.com or call 616.685.6756 in Grand Rapids or 231.727.7926 along the lakeshore.


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