Dispelling the myths about breast cancer

Jenny Decker RN's picture
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October is breast cancer awareness month. Pink is a color that is associated with breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer is scary to many people and as a result, there are many myths associated with it. Misinformation is prevalent due to fear and this makes one vulnerable to misunderstanding. Breast cancer awareness month is the perfect time to dispel the myths about breast cancer.

The very first myth that is associated with breast cancer is the myth about “the lump”. Many women (and men) do not seek the attention of health professionals when they find a lump in the breast tissue. This is frequently due to the fact that they are afraid it means they have breast cancer. However, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, as many as 8 in 10 breast lumps are benign. This means that they are not cancerous.

Another myth is that men do not get breast cancer. Men do get breast cancer, although it is a very small percentage. Although it is a small average, men should be doing regular breast exams just like women. Breast cancer is not a “woman’s disease”.

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There is a misconception that a mammogram will cause a breast cancer to spread if it is already there. This is not true. A mammogram is an x-ray that is considered one of the best tools for early detection of breast cancer. Some people spread tales around that are “horror stories” about their experiences with the mammogram. This should not deter a woman from getting a mammogram. A woman should discuss any concerns with her doctor before getting a mammogram to detect early breast cancer.

Family history of breast cancer puts a woman at higher risk of developing breast cancer herself. Being in a higher risk group does not necessarily mean that one will get breast cancer. A woman who is in this high risk group should be vigilant in obtaining mammograms as directed by her physician. This means the woman should have a mammogram five years before the age of her family member’s diagnosis of breast cancer. If the age is not known, mammograms should begin at age 35.

Two other myths about breast cancer include: breast cancer is contagious and knowing that you have the breast cancer gene will help you prevent breast cancer. The first myth is that breast cancer is contagious. Breast cancer does not spread from one person to another. Breast cancer is where the body has cells that are growing out of control. The second myth, about the breast cancer gene-BRCA1 and BRCA2, is knowing that you have the gene helps you prevent breast cancer. This is not true. However, just because you may have the gene, you may not get breast cancer. It only puts you in a high risk factor group. Even those who have the gene and other risk factors, a woman’s chance of not having breast cancer is 90%!

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women are reminded to do their monthly breast exams and get regular mammograms. Demystifying some of the myths associated with breast cancer may help motivate women to know what they need to know in order to protect themselves.

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