Cancer is a scary thing but, with the advance in medical technology, a lot of cancers are now treatable and that is true of breast cancer as well, which is one of the most common types of cancers in women. But as with all types of cancers, early detection and treatment play a huge role in effectively getting rid of the cancerous cells. Though there is a lot of awareness now about breast cancer, there are still some myths that blind side you from the risks.
The Week caught up with Dr Suzita Hirachan, consultant surgeon at Nepal Breast Cancer Foundation, to filter out the facts regarding breast cancer from the jumble of misinformation out there.
Myth: Abortion and miscarriage cause breast cancer.
Truth: This is the most common misconception regarding breast cancer but the fact is that neither abortion nor miscarriage cause breast cancer. There have been a number of research and follow up research on this and the results always tilt towards the negative. Meaning they do not show any link between abortion/miscarriage and breast cancer.
Myth: Only women suffer from breast cancer.
Truth: No, it is not just women who suffer from breast cancer. Although very rare, there definitely have been cases of male breast cancer patients as well. However, men only have less than 1% chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Research show that only about five in 1000 men suffer from breast cancer.
Myth: Those with bigger breasts have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
Truth: It is not the size but the density of breasts that determines the chances of getting breast cancer. Studies have shown that denser breasts have a higher prospect of being affected by cancer than relatively lighter ones.
Myth: All lumps found in the breast are cancerous.
Truth: Contrary to the popular belief not all breast lumps are cancerous. In fact about 90% of these lumps found in breasts are non cancerous and are harmless growths. If someone is suspicious of their breast lumps, then they can carry out self-checkups to determine the kind of lump it is. Even if after the self exam, you still think the lump could be cancerous then s/he should consult a doctor.
Myth: Aged women are the only victims of breast cancer.
Truth: It is true that most people are diagnosed with breast cancer only in their 20s, 30s or even later in life but that is just because young girls (or even boys) are not brought for breast cancer diagnosis. There have been cases of breast cancer diagnosis in children as young as 4 years old.
Myth: Use of deodorants, shaving and underwire bras lead to breast cancer.
Truth: Use of deodorants or the type of bra someone uses has nothing to do with breast cancer. The same goes with shaving. No one gets breast cancer by shaving any body part.
Myth: If someone has a family history of breast cancer, then they are at a high risk of suffering from it too.
Truth: No, genetics isn’t the only cause of cancerous breasts. Only about 10 to 15% breast cancer cases are due to hereditary causes. However if a person does have a family history of breast cancer then they should see a doctor during their pre teen or teenage years.
Myth: Breast cancer gets transmitted via sexual intercourse.
Truth: This is probably the lamest myth there is regarding breast cancer. Cancers are not some communicable or transferable disease. Same with breast cancer. It does not transfer due to contact with another human being or any other animal for that matter. Do not confuse breast cancer for a STD or STI.
Myth: External factors do not affect chances of getting breast cancer.
Truth: Although many people think getting breast cancer is just dependent on your luck, that’s not the case. Someone’s diagnosis of breast cancer is dependent on various different external factors like their food intake, how much exercise they get on a regular basis, their environment (how polluted is it), their alcohol intake, and many more.
Myth: Breast implants cause breast cancer.
Truth: Breast implants definitely sound like the type of thing that would cause a huge health problem, even something as big and life threatening as a cancer. But that is just hearsay. After years of research on this matter, it has been proven that breast implants are never the sole or main cause of cancer.
Myth: Previous injuries, bumping or bruising to breasts cause breast cancer.
Truth: There is no evidence that a bump or injury to the breast, including through sport, increases your risk of getting breast cancer. Sometimes an individual might just check their breasts more carefully after bumping or injuring their breast, and so may notice an unusual change in their breast, such as a lump.
Myth: Fertility treatments and birth control measures cause breast cancer.
Truth: It is true that one should not be taking birth control pills if they have already been diagnosed with breast cancer and are taking medication to treat it. But the fact that birth control pills outright cause breast cancer is just a big hoax. A study released in 2010 found that using birth control pills did not increase breast cancer risk.
October is breast cancer awareness month (Pinktober).