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Breast Cancer Myths

It's important to separate fact from fiction to help yourself and others who are facing this disease. Here are 10 of the most common myths and the truth about breast cancer:

  1. MYTH: Women without a family history of breast cancer are not at risk.
    TRUTH: The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no close relatives with this disease. Regardless of family history, discuss mammography guidelines and schedule regular screenings with your health provider. The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and growing older.
  2. MYTH: Breast cancer has become an epidemic in young women.
    TRUTH: Although all women are at risk for breast cancer, 95 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women ages 40 and over; and more than three quarters occur among women over 50.
  3. MYTH: Underarm antiperspirants and under-wire bras cause breast cancer.
    TRUTH: There is no evidence or studies which indicate that using antiperspirants or wearing any type of bra increases the risk of, much less causes, breast cancer.
  4. MYTH: Breast cancer kills more women than any other disease.
    TRUTH: More American women die of heart disease and lung cancer. However breast cancer is still a major health concern. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year about 212,600 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among women. Early detection and innovative treatment options are now making it possible for many more women to live healthy, cancer-free lives. But despite this progress, approximately 40,200 deaths will occur from the disease this year - 400 of them will be men.
  5. MYTH: Mammograms are unsafe and painful.
    TRUTH: With today's modern technology, radiation levels are low and not harmful. Modern mammography equipment is designed to minimize the degree of discomfort. Since breasts can be tender just before or after menstruation, women may prefer to schedule a mammogram at a different time.
  6. MYTH: If a mammogram result comes back normal, there's nothing to worry about until the next scheduled test.
    TRUTH: Mammography is the best technology to detect cancer early. The American Cancer Society recommends women also receive a breast examination by a health professional as part of their scheduled physical exam. Self-awareness and prompt reporting of any changes is important and strongly encouraged. Follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for breast cancer screening.
  7. MYTH: If a lump is cancerous, mastectomy is the only option.
    TRUTH: At one time, mastectomy was standard therapy, but now many women have more than one choice. The combination of lump removal (lumpectomy) and radiation is performed more commonly. And the many treatment options are helping women live healthy, cancer-free lives.
  8. MYTH: Only women get breast cancer.
    TRUTH: Breast cancer occurs primarily in women, but occasionally in men. Many people do not realize that men have breast tissue, and that it's possible for them to develop breast cancer.
  9. MYTH: Having silicone breast implants increases your chance of breast cancer.
    TRUTH: Silicone breast implants can cause formation of scar tissue in the breast, but several studies have found that they do not increase breast cancer risk.
  10. MYTH: An injury to the breast can cause breast cancer.
    TRUTH: Injury or trauma to the breast does not cause cancer. One reason for this myth is an injury may draw attention to a breast lump that had actually been present for some time.