240,000 cases in women and about 2,100 cases of breast cancer in men are reported annually. Unfortunately, these diagnoses contribute to approximately 42,000 deaths. The high mortality rate associated with breast cancer underscores the urgent need for awareness and education.
In this blog, we demystify the myths and misconceptions that swirl around so you can make informed decisions to prevent, detect, and treat breast cancer.
Myth 1: Breast Injury Causes Breast Cancer
Contrary to popular belief, breast injuries do not trigger cancer development. They can result in pain, bruising, or bleeding but not abnormal cell growth. It is possible that a breast injury prompts a medical examination that leads to the detection of a pre-existing breast cancer condition.
Myth 2: Breast Size Equals Cancer Risk
The breast size has no connection with the risk of cancer. So, having bigger breasts doesn’t increase your chances of acquiring this illness. However, being overweight and having dense breast tissue can increase the risk. You can learn the density of your breast tissue only through a mammogram screening.
Myth 3: Breast Cancer Only Happens in Older Women
Even though the majority of breast cancer cases are reported in middle-aged or older women, the onset of this disease is not associated with age. On average, 9% of the cases are diagnosed in women younger than 45 years. Therefore, early awareness and regular screenings are crucial, especially for individuals with a family history of breast cancer.
Myth 4: Breast Pain is A Definite Cancer Sign
Despite the common belief, breast pain is not a sign of breast cancer. Only 1% of women diagnosed with cancer report experiencing pain in the chest area. It is better to consult with a doctor if you experience constant pain in your breasts.
Myth 5: Underwire Bras Cause Cancer
Most women believe wearing an underwire bra restricts lymph fluid, causing cancer. However, no scientific evidence supports that bras or any other type of clothing promote breast cancer diagnosis. Regardless, it is important to wear a well-fitting bra to decrease discomfort and get the required support for your chest.
Myth 6: Breast Lumps Are Symptoms of Cancer
Finding a lump in the breast does not always mean breast cancer. Breast tissue generally feels lumpy and sponge-like, giving an illusion of a lump. Most early signs of cancer involve nipple pain, dimpling, swelling, and nipple discharge. If you observe any changes in your chest area, visit a doctor for a breast exam and additional imaging tests.
Myth 7: Mammograms Can Cause or Spread Cancer
Breast compression and radiation exposure during a mammogram do not cause or spread breast cancer. Mammography is a crucial tool for the early detection of tumors or abnormalities in the tissue, increasing the chances of successful recovery.
Moreover, mammograms use a low dose of X-rays to capture images of breast tissue. This radiation exposure is incredibly minimal and, more importantly, not strong enough to induce cancer or promote its spread. Therefore, it is perfectly safe to get an annual screening after age 40 to detect any tissue abnormality at an early stage.
Myth 8: Family History Is a Guaranteed Cancer Cause
A family history of breast cancer increases your risk, but it doesn’t guarantee you will develop the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, 5% to 10% of diagnoses are linked to a hereditary gene mutation. The majority of these cases are caused by acquired mutations and lifestyle factors, such as cigarette smoke, diet, and radiation, rather than inherited ones.
Myth 9: Breast Cancer Is Contagious
Breast cancer, like other forms of cancer, is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another. It is caused by the growth of mutated cells in the breast tissue and is impossible to transmit through contact with the patient.
This myth can lead to unnecessary fear and stigmatization of individuals with breast cancer. It’s crucial to dispel this misconception to foster understanding and empathy for those affected by the disease.
Myth 10: Stress Is Directly Linked with Cancer
While managing stress is important for overall health, it does not significantly impact breast cancer risk. Research has shown that chronic stress affects the body in ways that can indirectly increase the risk of cancer. For example, prolonged stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or poor dietary choices, known risk factors for certain types of cancer.
However, experiencing chronic stress can help tumor cells grow as it activates neutrophils, a type of immune cell. Neutrophils shield the tumor from the immune system and also awaken dormant cancer cells. Therefore, it is crucial to find effective ways to cope with daily stressors and chronic stress.
Breast cancer is a significant health concern that must be approached with accurate information. This is because various myths surrounding this illness can hinder early detection, prevention, and support for those affected by the disease. It is important to educate yourself and debunk common myths to move closer to a healthier and more knowledgeable future.