When we hear a woman has been diagnosed with cancer, most of us tend to assume the culprit is breast cancer. With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. BreastCancer.org estimates that 30 percent of cancers diagnosed in women in 2017 will be breast cancer.
Considering the sheer mass of information online regarding breast cancer, most women have heard myths associated with the disease. Separating the true from the false equips women with the facts necessary to reduce risk and to plan treatment if diagnosed.
Here are eight common falsehoods that women no longer need to accept as truth:
- Myth: Almost all breast lumps are cancerous.
About 80 percent of lumps found in women’s breasts turn out not to be cancerous. Most lumps are caused by benign (noncancerous) changes, cysts or other conditions. However, a woman should not ignore any lump or change in her breast tissue. It is very important to see a physician for a clinical breast exam with possible breast imaging to determine if a lump is of concern or not. A doctor may recommend a mammogram, ultrasound or biopsy to help determine whether a lump is cancerous.
- Myth: Underwire bras cause breast cancer.
This misconception is based on an old theory that underwire bras reduce lymphatic drainage, leading to breast cancer by causing toxins to accumulate. This notion has been widely debunked. The consensus is that there is no connection between the tightness of a woman’s clothing and breast cancer risk.
- Myth: Antiperspirants cause breast cancer.
This rumor was started by the fact that some antiperspirants use a chemical preservative called parabens, which may increase estrogen, a hormone linked to increased breast cancer risk. There is no research supporting this notion and the American Cancer Society debunked this myth. If parabens are of concern to a woman, she should check the ingredient label and look for ingredients such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben or benzylparaben. Most antiperspirants no longer contain these substances.
Women who have a mammogram will be told not to wear an antiperspirant because they can contain aluminum, which can provide a false-positive result. The National Cancer Institute does not advise limiting the use of antiperspirants, but it says that more research is needed in this area.
- Myth: Women with small breasts have a lower risk of breast cancer.
Breast size does not affect a woman’s risk of breast cancer. It is true, however, that it can be harder to examine larger breasts with a clinical breast exam or a mammogram. Regardless of breast size, all women should commit to regular screenings and checkups.
- Myth: Exposure to air causes cancer to spread.
Having surgery does not cause breast cancer, and cutting into a tumor where it is exposed to air will not cause cancer to spread.
- Myth: Breast implants raise the risk of breast cancer.
Women with breast implants do not have a higher risk of breast cancer, according to research. However, standard mammograms may not always work as well on women with breast implants, so additional imaging may be needed to fully examine breast tissue.
- Myth: Women with lumpy breasts or fibrocystic breast changes have a higher risk.
At one time, is was believed that women with fibrocystic breasts were at a higher risk of breast cancer, but this common condition does not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The lumps are likely due to hormonal changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Although fibrocystic breast changes don’t increase risk of breast cancer, this condition may make it more difficult to feel a new breast lump.
- Myth: The majority of women who get breast cancer have a family history of it.
While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group (particularly if their mother, sister or daughter develops the disease), most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Statistically, only about 10 percent of women diagnosed have a family history of breast cancer.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, SamadiMD.com and Facebook