Myths & Facts
because knowledge is power
Fact: About 85% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. However, the risk may increase for women whose family history includes:
- Multiple close relatives – your mom, sisters, or aunts – who had breast and/or ovarian cancer
- Multiple generations with breast and/or ovarian cancer on the same side of the family
- Close relatives who developed breast cancer at a young age
- Male relatives with breast cancer
Because breast cancer can happen to anyone, it’s important for all women to get mammograms regularly. Guidelines can vary among health organizations. The American Cancer Society recommends annual screenings for women age 45 and older, though they may start as early as age 40. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screenings every two years for women 50 to 74. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Fact: Some swear by mammograms, others are more skeptical. The truth is that mammograms do save lives by finding breast cancer early, when treatment is most successful. However, mammograms aren’t foolproof. While they can provide early detection, cancer can still develop in between screenings.
Fact: Don’t toss out your underwire bra just yet. There’s no scientific evidence linking bra type (including underwire bras), bra size, or breast size to an elevated risk for breast cancer.
The same is true for antiperspirants, deodorants, particular foods, hair dyes, and cell phone use. Breast cancer has been linked to lifestyle and environmental factors, though. To help lower your risk, experts recommend maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
Fact: There’s no direct causal relationship between alcohol and breast cancer. However, as part of a healthy lifestyle, we advise women against excessive use of alcohol. Everything should be in moderation. There is a causal relationship between alcohol and other cancers, such as liver cancer, but not with breast cancer. But if you’re going to drink alcohol, we think red wine might be better because it contains phenolic acids which may protect against breast cancer.
Fact: Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age. According to the National Cancer Institute, one in 227 women will be diagnosed with the disease at age 30. By age 40, the odds are one in 68; by age 70, it’s one in 26.
Fact: Fibrocystic breasts do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Women with dense breasts need to complement their mammogram with an ultrasound since breast density lowers the sensitivity of the mammogram.
Know their body and family history. Empower yourself with education so you really know the facts. And when you see something, take action and don’t delay it because early detection is key.
Fact: Although less common, breast cancer is diagnosed in about 2,000 men in the U.S. each year, or about 1 percent of all new cases, according to the CDC. Men usually detect breast cancer during a self-exam. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any new growths or lumps. Men who develop breast cancer may be at higher risk for carrying a BRCA mutation and should consider genetic counseling to better understand the genetic risk.
Fact: Most lumps in the breast are not cancer, and not everyone with cancer can feel a lump. In fact, in its earliest stages, most breast cancers may not cause lumps. This is one reason experts recommend regular mammograms. A mammogram can identify breast abnormalities before they can be felt or seen.
Breast cancer can present in different ways, such as changes in the skin, breast or nipple pain, nipple discharge, nipple retraction (turning inward), swelling in the breast, skin irritation or dimpling, scaliness of the nipple or skin, asymmetry or differences in the size of one breast compared to the other, and/or as a mass in the area under the arm. Talk to your doctor if you feel a lump or notice changes in your breast that may be a reason for concern.
Fact: There is no causal connection between caffeinated products and breast cancer. There is, however, a connection between caffeinated products and breast pain.
Fact: Research shows that women with breast implants are at no greater risk of getting breast cancer than women without them. That said, breast implants may make it harder to read mammograms, so additional X-rays are sometimes needed to more fully examine breast tissue.
Fact: Breast pain is usually not one of the first symptoms of breast cancer nor is it usually associated with breast cancer. That said, if breast cancer causes pain, it’s usually indicative of an advanced stage of breast cancer.
Fact: Although all women are at risk for breast cancer, 95% of breast cancer cases occur in women ages 40 and over; and more than three quarters occur among women 50+.
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