One of the problems the medical establishment is constantly battling is the misinformation that comes about from rumors becoming entrenched in popular culture. Such is often the case even with highly publicized maladies such as breast cancer. Recently Jessica Girdwain, medical correspondent for Woman’s Day magazine did a survey of current discussion topics among various web sites and found an alarming array of popular misconceptions or myths surrounding breast. She’s posted her results in a recent column.
First she says, is the misunderstanding regarding family history and breast cancer. While there is some slight increase in the chances if there is a family history, that doens’t rule out the possibility if there is none. Thus, many women who look around their family and don’t see much if any breast cancer wind up forgoing mammograms, often leading to a late diagnosis. Bottom line: all women should be tested regardless of family history.
Another myth is that most lumps that women find in their breasts are cancerous. This is absolutely wrong. Most lumps are in fact due to lesions or cysts, neither of which are dangerous.
Another thing a lot of women misunderstand is that when doing self-breast exams the only thing they are looking for is lumps. Again, this is just flat out wrong. Women should be looking for any noticeable changes in their breasts including changes in coloring on the outside, or changes to the nipple. In most cases, most breasts don’t change much from month to month unless a woman becomes pregnant. Thus any changes that are noticed should be checked out.
Another widely held belief is that only older women get breast cancer. This likely stems from the AMAs guidelines that suggest mammograms for women starting at age forty. Unfortunately, many women in virtually all age groups get breast cancer, from young teens all the way up to the elderly. While it might be less prevalent in younger women, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Thus, women of all ages should do routine self-breast exams.
There also seems to be this idea that taking birth-control pills increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. This is absolutely not true. And if were true, birth control pills would either be banned or come with some sort of strong warning.
Another common myth is that if you get cancer in one breast, you’re likely to get it in the other. Again, this is simply not the case. Women who get breast cancer in one breast are no more likely to get it in their other breast than they were to get it in their first breast to begin with.
Less of myth, but still not everyone has gotten the news, but men can get breast cancer too.
And finally, for those women who do have a family history of breast cancer, it’s a myth that only the mother’s side of the family should be included in the medical history. The fact is, both sides of the family need to be looked at.
The bottom line is, though many women would prefer to not think about breast cancer at all, the smart thing is to read reputable sources of information, as the more women know about breast cancer and how it works, the safer they will be.