Myths related to breast cancer

Myths related to breast cancer

A large majority of women who come to our clinic harbor a lot of misunderstandings about breast cancer. Though there are many diseases that are rife with myths and half-truths, breast cancer is one of the most misunderstood. One forms such opinions based on the anecdotal stories shared by relatives, friends or colleagues. In today’s times a lot of information is also gathered from the internet.

However, it is important to understand that all the information shared on online platforms is not always accurate. What is the ideal age to get yourself screened or the symptoms that you should watch out for, a lot of what you consider fact may actually be false! Let me take you through various such myths and debunk them.

Myth: Wearing a wired bra increases your risk of getting breast cancer

In reality, claims that wired bra increase the risk of breast cancer have been thoroughly debunked. It doesn’t matter what type of bra you wear, how tight it is, or whether you wear one at all. The truth is that there is no connection between the type of clothes worn and your risk of contracting breast cancer. Another important issue which bothers women is whether use of bra at night increases the risk of breast cancer. There is no scientific proof that duration of use of bra leads to breast cancer. It is matter of one’s comfort whether to use it or not.

Myth: Men don’t get breast cancer

In reality, men also can suffer from breast cancer. Though male breasts do not resemble those of a woman, they still contain breast tissue as females do. Studies have shown that the risk of men developing breast cancer is about 100 times less than a woman. Regardless, men should not dismiss early symptoms of breast cancer, and should get themselves checked if they exhibit any of the symptoms. The possibility of harboring a genetic abnormality/mutation responsible for breast cancer development is higher when breast cancer is diagnosed in a man.

Myth: A lump in the breast always means that you have breast cancer

No, this is not always true. While your breasts should not have any lumps, not all lumps are cancerous. A lot of the time breast lumps are benign tumors, which are harmless, or merely blocked milk ducts with accumulated milk. So, if you find a lump in your breast, don’t panic. Consult a breast surgeon and let her/him figure out whether it’s cancer or not. Breast lumps which are painless, which gradually progress in size and which are relatively firmer to touch are likely to be cancerous.

Myth: One can have breast cancer only if there is any family history

In reality, only 5-10% of breast cancer cases are because of faulty genes received from parents. Remaining nearly 90-95% women do not have any inherited genetic abnormality. These are called as sporadic cancers.

There are two main genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are responsible for most of the genetic cases of breast cancer. However, many other genes have been found which can increase the risk of breast cancer if they are abnormal. Even in women who have a family history of breast cancer, many cases are due to other factors such as increased exposure to estrogen, smoking, obesity and other lifestyle factors.

Myth: Diagnosis of breast cancer always means loss of breast

Till the mid twentieth century, the only surgical treatment for breast cancer was removal of the affected breast entirely. However, there has been a significant improvement in the understanding of breast cancer. During the last 3-4 decades of last century, multiple well planned trials have proved that breast conservation surgery is equivalent to mastectomy (removal of entire breast) in terms of survival in patients with early breast cancer. Evolution of other treatment modalities like chemotherapy and radiotherapy also has contributed in improvement in breast cancer survival and allowing less extensive breast conservation surgeries.

Myth: Use of deodorants increases the risk of breast cancer

This is not true. There is no scientific evidence to prove this statement. Deodorants do contain some chemicals which may lead to allergic reactions in some leading to itching or rashes. However, we have not found any association with use of these personal hygiene products and breast cancer.

Myth: Breast cancer occurs only in old age

The incidence of breast cancer is the highest in the women between the age group 50-75 years. However, women younger than this also can have breast cancer. In fact, in India, breast cancer is diagnosed in women at least a decade earlier than those in developed western countries. There is an alarming rise in the breast cancer incidence in younger women in our country. Women who inherit abnormal genes responsible for breast cancer development develop breast cancer at relatively young age.

Myth: Eating soy products increases the risk of breast cancer

Earlier it was thought that use of soy products like tofu, soy milk leads to breast cancer. The isoflavones found in soy products are called plant estrogens and were considered to be increasing the risk of breast cancer. However, it is not true. Eating soy products in moderation does not increase the risk.

Myth: Radiation exposure due to mammographic screening increases breast cancer risk

Many women are scared of screening mammography due to this misinformation about the radiation exposure it entails. However, it is important understand that the radiation dose one is exposed to during each screening mammogram is very low and the cumulative exposure with screening mammography throughout the life has not been associated with increased risk of breast cancer. On the contrary, early detection of breast cancer facilitated by mammography has helped in reducing the deaths due to breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a disease that requires speedy and accurate diagnosis as well as well-planned treatment. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into the misleading web of lies that surrounds breast cancer. If you exhibit any of the symptoms of breast cancer, consult a doctor immediately and get yourself screened.

An early diagnosis and timely treatment greatly increase your chances of successfully beating this illness. In early breast cancer, cure rates can be more than 90% if treatment is carried out at the best cancer centers under the best breast specialties.

Mammography prevents Cancer – Mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible.

Mammography is unsafe during pregnancy -it’s generally thought to be safe to have a mammogram during pregnancy. The amount of radiation needed for a mammogram is small, and the radiation is focused on the breasts, so that most of it doesn’t reach other parts of the body. The “scatter” that might reach the embryo would be extremely small and would not represent an increased risk for birth defects or miscarriage to  embryo

Biopsy increases tumour size- Any needle biopsy doesn’t cause any change in tumour size per se. You may get transient increase in its size after biopsy for some days . It’s usually because of internal bleeding at biopsy site causing haematoma or inflammatory response due to procedure

Biopsy causes Cancer spread – studies have not shown any evidence of needle track seedling or disintegration and dispersion of cancer cells into blood vessels causing distant spread of the disease.

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. To better understand breast cancer, it helps to understand how any cancer can develop.

Breast Cancer Risk Factor

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