Saturday, October 17, 2009

Five Myths and Misconceptions about Breast Cancer

1. Only women get breast cancer.

This is probably the most common misconception about breast cancer. Surprise! Men can be diagnosed with breast cancer, as well. Men have breast tissue and their breast duct cells are just as vulnerable to developing cancer as a woman's. However, because women have many more breast duct cells and hormones attacking those cells than men do, breast cancer is more prevalent in women.

2. Breastfeeding will prevent a woman from developing breast cancer.

While various medical reports and physicians will attest that women who breastfeed have indeed a decreased chance of developing breast cancer, it is not the "cure" for breast cancer. Some women who breastfed their babies have developed breast cancer later in life. While breastfeeding is a good preventative measure against developing breast cancer, it won't guarantee a block against it.

3. Mammograms are dangerous because of radiation exposure.

In the 1970's, the risk of harmful radiation exposure from mammograms was a growing concern in the medical community. This debate over radiation exposure from a mammogram, however, remains very strong and rampant. Still, mammograms are definitely useful in detecting tumors which might otherwise go undetected. Today's technology has improved the performance and safety of equipment used during a mammogram.

4. The breast-self-exam (BSE) is sufficient in detecting a tumor.

There are two things wrong with this myth. One is that not every female knows how to perform the BSE correctly. A young woman should consult with her doctor about the proper way to perform a BSE. The second thing is that relying on BSE to detect any tumors or suspicious lumps is not the best way for finding any. A tumor or lump on the breast can be undetected and hard to locate. By the time a tumor is detected, it is very large and has been festering in that area for some time. As a measure of caution, a yearly mammogram or yearly breast exam performed by a physician is advisable.

5. If I have no family history of breast cancer, I can't get it.

This is also another popular myth about breast cancer. Anyone with a first-degree family member (such as parent or sibling) with breast cancer has the highest risk of obtaining the disease. The next highest risk is anyone with a second-degree family member (such as anyone on the mother or father's side) who has had the disease. However, people with no known family history of breast cancer have also developed the disease. According to the book, Mammography and Breast Imaging: Just the Facts by Olive Peart, "Over 90 percent of women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease."


Anonymous said...

how about the myth that no one has a clue as to what causes breast cancer?

I know several women that are survivors of breast cancer, and they all had one thing in common and it was NOT a hereditary risk. It was birth control pills.

Dawn Colclasure said...

You know, there's a lot of debate over what DOES and DOES NOT cause breast cancer. The thing is that we hear smoking causes breast cancer -- or that it doesn't. Birth control pills cause it -- or they don't cause it. There's so much indecision over a variety of things which may, or may not, cause breast cancer to develop. I think more research and study needs to be done before we can tell for a fact whether or not these things cause breast cancer.