Breast Cancer Myths and Misunderstandings
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Everywhere you look you can find information on the disease. Sometimes, it’s hard to determine what the truth is. We debunk the most common rumors.
Only women can develop breast cancer.
Although women develop breast cancer at a higher rate, men can develop breast cancer, too. About 1,600 men will develop breast cancer in the U.S. this year.
It seems like cancer is an epidemic with more and more people being diagnosed.
Cancer rates are actually decreasing. In fact, breast cancer incidence rates have dropped 11 percent since 1999. One reason cited: the reduction of hormone replacement therapy after studies linked it to cancer. Furthermore, breast cancer death rates are down 30 percent and five-year survival rates are up almost 20 percent- all thanks to better technology, early detection and education.
Eating organic food prevents cancer.
People who consistently eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, have a lower risk, regardless of whether the produce is organic or not. Whether organic foods carry a lower risk of cancer because they are less likely to be contaminated by pesticides that might cause cancer is largely unknown and still under research.
If you are looking to reduce your exposure, buying everything organic is not necessary. See if your favorite produce is on the organic food buying guide.
Since I have a family history, I'm bound to get breast cancer.
Age is actually a bigger risk factor than family history. Hereditary mutations cause five to 10 percent of breast cancers. While, 77 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women older than age 50.
Underwire bras can cause breast cancer.
The notion of a correlation between wearing a bra and breast cancer does not appear to hold up.
Women under 40 don't get breast cancer.
Yes, a woman's risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, but women of all ages can develop breast cancer. This is why women of all ages need to perform breast self-exams.
All women have a 1-in-8 chance of getting breast cancer.
Your risk increases as you get older. A woman’s chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 233 when she's in her 30's and rises to 1 in 8 by the time she’s reached 85.
A lump in the breast is breast cancer.
A lump in the breast can indicate many things, not just cancer. More than 80 percent of lumps found are benign.
Women with small breasts have a very low risk of developing breast cancer.
The amount of breast tissue a woman has does not affect her risk factor for developing breast cancer. Breast cancer does not discriminate against large or small breasts.
Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.
- A lump may indicate breast cancer (or one of many benign breast conditions), but be on the alert for other kinds of changes that may be signs of cancer. These include swelling; skin irritation or dimpling; breast or nipple pain; nipple retraction (turning inward); redness, scaliness, thickening of the nipple or breast skin; or a discharge other than breast milk.
- Breast cancer can also spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause swelling there before a tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt. On the other hand, a mammogram may pick up breast cancer that has no outward symptoms at all.
- Women with a rare type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) rarely have a breast lump. Symptoms of IBC include swelling, redness, itchiness, or warmth in the breast; tenderness or pain; a change in the nipple, such as retraction; skin that appears thick and pitted like an orange peel or with ridges and small bumps; an area of the breast that looks bruised; or swollen lymph nodes under the arm.
- Doctors encourage women to report any changes that they notice in their breasts.
Your Best Defense is Early Detection
For uninsured women over the age of 40, please call our Navigator Program at 818-885-5471 to see how you can arrange for a free mammogram. Appointments for our digital mammography at the Carole Pump Women's Center are available 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information call 818-700-5678.
Your Risk Revealed
Most of us worry about cancer more than we should. How do you separate fact from fear? Start with the American Cancer Society (ACS) guide to cancer screenings. First time for a mammogram? Learn what to expect.
According to the ACS, the following risk factors increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer:
- Age - 78 percent of women with invasive breast cancer are age 50 or older and approximately 6 percent are younger than 40
- Genetics - genes that may lead to inherited breast cancer include BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Gender - women have a higher risk than men (although breast cancer does exist among men, the number of cases is small)
- Family history - women with two or more relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, or if breast cancer occurs in a relative, including a mother, sister, daughter, grandmother or aunt (risk is higher if it is an immediate family member)
- Personal history of breast cancer - women with breast cancer are three- to four-times more likely to develop cancer in the other breast or another part of the same breast
5 Ways to Cut Your Cancer Risk in Minutes a Day
See how easy it is to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
Eat Healthy: A 2010 study conducted in Ireland, concluded that a diet low in fat, rich in whole grains and balanced fruit and vegetables can improve your health and decrease your risk. Likewise, a diet high in processed foods and red meat could increase your risk. Try these tips for Looking for ways to sneaking fruit and vegetables in your daily foods?
Exercise: We're not talking about running marathons, just getting up and moving. According to the American Cancer Society, exercise reduces breast cancer risk with as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2½ hours of brisk walking per week. This resulted in an 18 percent risk reduction! And, walking as much as 10 hours per week reduced it by 20 percent. The American Cancer Society suggests that you exercise for 45 to 60 minutes 5 or more days per week.
Limit the Cheers: Research has determined there is a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. It is recommended to limit alcohol to a couple drinks per week. Recent studies have shown that moderate alcohol use increases endogenous estrogen levels, thus increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Tipping the Scale: Being overweight or obese is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially for women after menopause or if the weight gain took place during adulthood. Those at particular risk are post-menopausal women, those who gained weight as an adult and/or whose body fat is around the waist. Learn healthy tips to maintain your weight and calculate your body mass index to determine your healthy range.
Recent Use of Birth Control Pills: Studies have found conflicting results about the link between birth control pills and breast cancer. Some studies have shown that women who are using birth control pills have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. This risk seems to go back to normal over time once the pills are stopped. Women who stopped using the pill more than 10 years ago do not seem to have any increased risk. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of birth control pills.