10 Breast Cancer Myths Debunked

Whether it’s something you read online or in a magazine or heard from a
friend of a friend, there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding what
does and doesn’t cause breast cancer. Sramila Aithal, MD, a medical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of
(CTCA) at Eastern Regional Medical Center, addresses the 10 most
common myths associated with breast cancer risk and breaks down what’s fact and
Myth #1: Breast cancer is always hereditary.

Breast cancer is hereditary
in only about 5-10 percent of patients who carry an inherited mutation called
BRCA genes which accounts for an increased risk of breast cancer at an early
age and is dependent on many variables including age, hormone factors, etc.
 Other hereditary syndromes may also cause breast cancer but
incidence is very low.
Myth #2: Only mom’s history predicts your risk.
Family history is very important in both parents,
which plays an equal role in your inherited risk for breast cancer. Lifetime
risk of breast cancer is more common in women than in men, even for inherited
Myth #3: Breast cancer will skip generations.
This is not true. Inherited BRCA mutations run in families and if one
parent has it then there’s a 50 percent risk of an inheritance of
this mutation. This, in turn, increases the risk of breast cancer but it is
also variable based on other characteristics such as age, gender, etc. There
are also mutations or expressions besides BRCA mutations in other genes in a
particular individual within a family.
Myth #4: With no family history of breast cancer, you can’t get it.
Breast cancer is one of the leading types of cancers in women and cause
of mortality. The exact cause is unclear, but there are various risk factors based
on your lifestyle, environmental factors, age, exposure to hormone estrogen,
age at first birth, menopausal status, obesity, etc. In fact, all
are at risk.
Myth #5: There is nothing you can do to reduce the risk of getting
breast cancer.
Wrong. Your risk for breast cancer may be assessed by a family physician
based on certain factors including family
. If you have an increased risk for breast cancer, risk reduction methods may include using anti-estrogen
hormone therapy, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol intake, limiting dosage and
duration of hormones you’re taking for menopausal symptoms, maintaining weight,
being physically active, etc.
Myth #6: Mammograms help prevent breast cancer.
Screening mammograms
is the only imaging study that helps detect breast cancer in its early stage
and decrease mortality from it, but it does not prevent breast cancer. Yearly mammograms are recommended for woman after age 40
and much earlier if there’s an increased risk for breast cancer. Since
mammograms have a 10 percent false negative rate, it may require additional
imaging techniques to help detect the disease.
Myth #7: Big breasts=higher risk of breast cancer.
The size of breasts is not known to have an increased risk for breast
cancer. However, other features like dense breast tissue or previous benign
biopsies may increase your risk
for breast cancer.
Myth #8: You can catch breast cancer from your mom in utero or through
her breast milk.
Breast cancer is not transmitted during pregnancy or through breast
milk, but breast cancer may occur during
and postpartum, which may pose a big challenge in the way it’s
managed depending on the stage of pregnancy. Chemotherapy medications may be
excreted in breast milk and hence breastfeeding is not recommended during
treatment for breast cancer.
Myth #9: Cell phones, antiperspirants, and tanning cause breast cancer.
There is no real conclusive evidence that use of cell phones or other agents
mentioned above cause breast cancer. However, it’s good to be aware that some
deodorants contain aluminum and may interfere with interpreting results of
Myth #10: A breast cancer diagnosis is an automatic death sentence.
False. Breast cancer can be diagnosed in its early stages
and may respond well to treatment. Even recurrent breast cancers can be treated
as a chronic disease based on its behavior and histology.
Definitely discuss your personal concerns/questions with your primary
care physician about breast cancer. You have the innate gift of knowing exactly
how your body functions and if you suspect something isn’t right act on that
You can also get some information about risk factors and treatment
options at the following online resources: Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention
, Breastcancer.org, and the National Breast
Cancer Foundation, Inc
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