With about one in eight women in the United States expected to develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime, myths surrounding breast cancer, mammograms and disease prevention can impede those seeking education about it.
This year, more than 281,000 cases of invasive breast cancer in women are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer, as 2,650 cases will be found in men this year.
Health care providers and nonprofits like the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Breastcancer.org work to dispel myths that can be a barrier to prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.
Common breast cancer myths include:
Myth: Mammograms cause breast cancer to spread because they put pressure on breasts.
Fact: Mammograms detect breast cancer. The procedure doesn’t cause cancer to spread.
Myth: Only people with a family history of breast cancer get the disease.
Fact: 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases may be inherited genetically. Most people diagnosed with it have no known family history.
Myth: Breast cancer causes a lump that can be felt during a self-exam.
Fact: There isn’t always a detectable lump. Self-exams are good, but mammograms should be done on the schedule suggested by a health care provider.
Myth: Tucking a cell phone inside a bra can cause cancer.
Fact: There is no evidence that carrying a cell phone close to the breast causes cancer.
Myth: Young women don’t get breast cancer.
Fact: One in every 25 women who contract invasive breast cancer are younger than 40.
Myth: Wearing underarm deodorant causes breast cancer.
Fact: There is no correlation between wearing antiperspirants or deodorants and cancer.
Myth: Eating too much sugar can “feed” breast cancer, causing it to spread.
Fact: There is no evidence that consuming too much sugar causes cancer.
Myth: Breast cancer is contagious.
Fact: Breast cancer isn’t contagious.
Myth: Wearing an underwire bra can cause cancer.
Fact: There is no evidence linking bras — or underwire bras — to cancer.
Myth: Eating soy-based foods increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
Fact: There is no evidence that consuming soy increases cancer risk, according to the American Cancer Society.
Breast cancer screenings
For women, especially ages 40-44, breast cancer screenings are optional. By 45, screenings should be performed during their annual physical. Women ages 50-64 can shift from an annual screening to one every two years, based on their medical history and doctor’s instruction. After 65, screenings are done on a case-by-case basis.
The standard screening test for breast cancer is a mammogram, an X-ray of the breast done by a special machine that compresses the breast between two plates to take an image. For some women, mammograms can feel uncomfortable.
Tips to make mammograms go smoothly:
- Don’t wear deodorant, perfume or powder as these can show up as spots on the X-ray.
- Avoid scheduling a mammogram just before or during their period, as breasts may be tender or swollen.
- Women need to
- undress from the
- waist up, so consider wearing a top with a
- skirt or pants instead
- of a dress.
Talk to a health care provider about when to have a mammogram, as it may vary from the recommended schedule based on family history.
About the author: Denice Logan, D.O., is a medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips and information, visit MIBluesPerspectives.com.