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Breast Cancer: Myth vs. Fact

According to the CDC, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. Deaths have decline over the years, but it remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women overall.

Unless you or a loved one experience breast cancer, you may not be able to separate myth from fact when it comes to breast cancer, such as: how do you get it, who is at risk, and what treatment involves.

Here are a few common myths that the put together.

MYTH: I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, so I won’t get it. FACT: Most people diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history.

Many people think of breast cancer as an inherited disease. However, only about 5–10% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary. The vast majority of people who get breast cancer have no family history, suggesting that other factors must be at work, such as environment and lifestyle.

MYTH: If you maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and limit alcohol, you don’t have to worry about breast cancer. FACT: These behaviors can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, but they can’t eliminate it.

There is evidence that all these behaviors can help reduce your risk of breast cancer and improve your chances of surviving breast cancer if it occurs. However, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and limiting alcohol can’t guarantee you’ll never get breast cancer.

MYTH: Wearing a bra can cause breast cancer. FACT: There is no evidence that bras cause breast cancer.

The theory was that wearing a bra — especially an underwire style — could restrict the flow of lymph fluid out of the breast, causing toxic substances to build up in the tissue.

However, there is no evidence to support this claim. A 2014 study of roughly 1,500 women with breast cancer found no link between bra-wearing and breast cancer.

MYTH: Annual mammograms guarantees early breast cancer detection. FACT: Although mammography is the best early-detection tool we have, it doesn’t always find breast cancer at an early stage.

Although mammography is a very good screening tool, it isn’t foolproof. It’s estimated that mammograms miss about 20% of breast cancers at the time of screening. There are several risks of screenings:

- False Positive Test Results

  • In some tests, doctor may see something that appears to be cancer but is not. This can lead to additional screening, which can be invasive, expensive and time-consuming.

- Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment

  • Tests can also lead to overdiagnosis when a doctor finds a cancer that would not have gone on to cause symptoms or problems. Treatment of these cancers is called overtreatment, which can cause unnecessary and unwanted side effects.

- False Negative Test Results

  • Other times, the mammogram may miss the cancer, which can delay finding a cancer and getting treatment.

Although mammography isn’t foolproof, it does catch most breast cancers, which is why regular screenings are essential. It’s also important to pay attention to any changes in your breasts, by performing monthly breast self-exams, and having annual physical examination of your breasts

For more information on breast cancer, please check out our resources:

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