Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women and the second most common cancer overall (after lung cancer). There were over 2 million new breast cancer cases reported in 2018 in the statistics of oncology. Its prevalence leads many to look for any possible early signs of breast cancer, while others assume that they don’t have to care about breast cancer awareness since they do not have a history of this disease running in the family. Breast cancer information mixed with disinformation circulates the web, and it is often hard to separate myths and facts. Having this in mind, we would like to tackle some popular myths of breast cancer origin, causes, and the effectiveness of breast cancer awareness.
We hope that in the end, facts will win over popular beliefs and while avoiding a panic, people will be able to look for real signs & symptoms of breast cancer.
Only Females Can Get Breast Cancer
While breast cancer awareness campaigns promoting solutions such as breast self-examination and regular mammography are generally directed towards women, it does not mean that men cannot get breast cancer. Although men don't have breasts like women, they have a small volume of breast tissue. The "breasts" of an adult man are like the breasts of a girl before puberty. Breast tissue of the girls grows and develops, but men's breast tissue doesn't. But because it is still breast tissue, men can get breast cancer as well.
While such an occurrence is much rarer in males, it still is a real threat to the lives of thousands of men all over the world. Therefore, lumps and changes in your breasts belong to the early signs of for all genders!
Every Lump in Your Chest Is a Breast Cancer
In looking for breast cancer, lumps are a viable indicator that something may be going wrong in your body. However, it does not mean that every lump in your breast is a malign tumor! If during your breast self-examination you spot a change do not worry, in most of the cases it will be of other origin or at most, it will be a benign tumor. Benign breast lumps usually have smooth edges and can be moved a little when you slowly push on them. Benign lumps may be found in both breasts.
Only rarely lumps turn out to be a breast cancer tissue. Panic is not a solution, and a visit to your doctor will help to make everything clear with a series of a breast cancer test.
Bras Cause Breast Cancer
Among numerous myths and facts proliferated through the internet, this one is especially bizarre. It is said that underwire bras cause breast cancer by blocking the drainage of lymph fluid from the bottom of the breast. However, there is no scientific evidence to support these rumors. A scientific study has already searched at the link between wearing a bra and breast cancer. And according to this study, there was no difference in cancer risk between women who wear a bra and women who didn't.
Deodorants and Antiperspirants Lead to Breast Cancer
Yet another one example that not everything that you find on the internet is true. So far, apart from one inconclusive finding, no scientific research has proven that deodorants and antiperspirants have any impact on breast cancer risk. The claims are based on the concern that antiperspirant chemicals are absorbed through the skin, block the toxin release during the sweating, and these toxins building up in the breast. But again, there is no scientific evidence to support this belief. The truth is, even the strongest antiperspirant doesn't block all perspiration in the armpit.
Breast Cancer Risk Is Primarily Genetic
To myths of breast cancer which have the most damaging effect on women of all ages belongs the myth of breast cancer gene. It is true, around 5-10% of cases were connected in a way to one’s family background. However, the remaining 90% or so of breast cancers are caused by other risk factors such as age, personal cancer history, hormone replacement therapy, race and ethnicity, unhealthy lifestyle, heavy drinking or smoking.
There Are No Ways to Decrease the Breast Cancer Risk
On the scale of myths vs. facts, this one is definitely a myth. While risk cannot be avoided in 100%, there is plenty of solutions which bring this risk to a minimum. First of all, cancer risk is heavily affected by the life you lead. Healthy food, a good dose of exercise, drinking within certain limits and quitting smoking – all of these are often emphasized in campaigns promoting breast cancer awareness.
For women from risk group such as suspected to have a breast cancer gene, treatments such as prophylactic mastectomy may do the job. Ask about it during your next routine check-up.
Additionally, routine breast self-examinations and regular tests such as mammography may help in spotting early signs of breast cancer before it becomes too big and too dangerous. According to the results of cancer research, breast cancer detected by mammogram screening is an independent prognosis factor in breast cancer and is related to more positive survival rates.
While it doesn’t really count as decreasing the risk, it may lead to you winning with the disease before it started to spread.
Mastectomy Is the Only Effective Breast Cancer Treatment
Mastectomy was the preferred treatment for many years. However, with women paying more attention to signs & symptoms of breast cancer and therefore allowing for early diagnosis, doctors have a larger spectrum of action which they can choose as an effective treatment. Partial mastectomy or removal of the small localized tumor without removing the breast are viable options for many patients, especially, that they are often supported by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. On the other hand, some types of targeted therapy may be combined with hormonal therapy for especially metastatic breast cancer. However, chemotherapy is not one of them which may be recommended along with hormonal therapy. Palbociclib (Ibrance) treatment may be applied along with hormone therapy drugs such as anastrozole or fulvestrant for postmenopausal women who have not previously received hormonal therapy with these drugs.
There Is No Such Thing as Brest Cancer in Young Women
Similarly, to men who have breast cancer, young women and girls also need to keep in mind a possible risk, even though it is much smaller than in middle-aged women. In young women under 40, breast cancer usually tends to be diagnosed in its later stages and to be more aggressive.
As with other groups in danger of cancer, lumps are one of the popular indicators that something may be happening in your breast. However, as we have mentioned in other facts, do not confuse breast cancer awareness with panicking – most of the lumps are of origin other than carcinoma.
This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in April 2019.