Breast Cancer Myths and Facts with Dr. Smith

by Judy L. Smith MD MS CPE FACS Chief, Spectrum Health Cancer Center • photography by Two Eagles Marcus

Dr. Judy L. Smith is a leading cancer expert with more than 30 years of experience in clinical and administrative oncology. This month, she shares her expertise to dispel commonly believed myths about breast cancer.

Myth:

Women do not need to start checking for breast cancer until age 40.

Fact: 

Women – and men – can develop breast cancer at any age. Although mammograms may not start until women are midlife, women, and men, should know what is normal for their own breasts. Any lumps, discharges or skin changes in the breasts should be evaluated by your primary care provider if they persist through a menstrual cycle or become anxiety producing. For men, any lumps in the breast should be evaluated by a physician.

Myth: 

I found a lump in my breast so I have breast cancer.

Fact: 

No one should jump to conclusions upon finding a lump in your breast. Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. In fact, 8 out of 10 lumps are benign cysts or fatty deposits and have no link to cancer. However, if you do find a new breast lump or have any concerns about changes in your breasts, be sure to see a physician for an examination and discussion about how to proceed. Your physician may order an ultrasound or mammogram to determine if the lump is of concern.

Myth:

Men don’t get breast cancer.

Fact: 

This chance is small – about one in 1,000 – but men do get breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, this year alone about 2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men will be diagnosed and about 460 men will die from breast cancer. Breast cancer in men is usually found as a hard lump or mass beneath or around the nipple. Men should quickly see their physician for evaluation if a lump is found. Men have a higher mortality rate than women with breast cancer likely due to delays in seeking treatment; they simply don’t think about breast cancer as a possibility.

Myth: 

Compression of the breast that occurs during a mammogram causes breast cancer to spread.

Fact: 

This has no basis in truth. Women are encouraged to continue to get regular mammograms and follow the recommendations of their physicians.

Myth: 

Bras cause breast cancer.

Fact:

Bras do not cause breast cancer. A 2014 scientific study looked at the link between wearing a bra and breast cancer. There was no significant difference in risk between women who wore a bra and women who didn’t wear a bra.

Myth: 

There is nothing you can do to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

Fact: 

It is estimated that up to 90 percent of all breast cancers are largely due to lifestyle and environmental factors. To keep your risk as low as it can be, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

Myth:

Most women with breast cancer have cancer in their family.

Fact:

Family history is a risk factor related to breast cancer but only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, which means they are caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child. The other 90 percent are largely due to lifestyle and environmental factors. According to the National Cancer Institute, a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer increases if her mother, sister and/or daughter have been diagnosed with the disease, especially if they were diagnosed before age 50. Having a close male blood relative with breast cancer also increases a woman’s risk of developing the disease. Therefore, it is important for women to be aware of their family history of this disease. If breast cancer runs in your family, you will be encouraged to start screening early and may also be encouraged to undergo genetic testing.

Myth:

Women with a BRCA gene mutation will get breast cancer.

Fact: 

Genetic testing can tell us a great deal about a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.  According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives. However, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70. However, nothing is a certainty. It is very important for women to work closely with their providers to consider all options if they are found to have either BRCA1 or BRCA 2 gene mutations.


Receive Our Monthly Newsletter!

Essential. Entertaining. Enlightening.

We will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

X