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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Breast Cancer Myths

Chances are you've heard at least a few myths about what causes breast cancer or increases your breast cancer risk A little myth-busting is in order so you can get your breast cancer facts straight.

Underwire Bras Cause Breast Cancer

That's absolutely untrue. This is based on an old theory that an underwire bra would reduce lymphatic drainage & increase breast cancer risk. It was not based on any data whatsoever. Constriction of the breast, whether from an underwire bra or any kind of compression garment, does not affect breast cancer risk.

Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer

There have been no studies to suggest a link between antiperspirants & breast cancer. There are two possible points of origin for this cancer myth.

i) Parabens: These chemical preservatives are used in some antiperspirants & some other products. They may increase estrogen levels, which is linked to breast cancer risk But there is no decisive link. Check ingredient labels if you are concerned. Look for the ingredients methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben. However, most brands no longer include these ingredients.

ii) Mammogram preparation: Antiperspirants contain some aluminum, which may show up on mammograms as a false-positive result. One thing that is important for women to know is that when they go for their mammograms, they shouldn't wear antiperspirants. 

Radiation from Screening Tests Causes Cancer

Although mammograms do give off a small amount of radiation, the radiation dose in a mammogram is less than in a standard chest X- ray. It is such a low level that it wouldn't increase breast cancer risk Women should also know that MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) & ultrasounds, which may also be used to screen for breast cancer in some women, contain no radiation at all.

Exposure to Air Causes Cancer to Spread

That is untrue. Patients are naturally worried because cancer does have the potential to spread (called metastasis), but it is not caused by your cancer surgeon cutting into a tumor for a biopsy or to remove it.

You Have to Have a Family History to Get Cancer

Women who don't have a family history of breast cancer are surprised when they get breast cancer. Family history is a well-established risk factor. So well- established that some women may believe it is the only risk factor, but it's not. Less than 10 percent of breast cancer patients get it because of a familial history.

There's Nothing You Can Do about an Inherited Risk

A strong family history is a cancer risk factor, but just because women in your family have had breast cancer does not mean you are destined to get it. Genetic testing will help you understand your inherited risk & allow you to make choices about your future care. Additionally, research shows that a low-fat diet combined with physical activity reduces breast cancer risk. If you have a family history, you should do everything that you can to decrease your risk.

Breast Cancer Occurs Only in Older Women

Increasing age is a risk factor for breast cancer, so the older you are the more likely you are to get breast cancer. However, that doesn't mean younger women aren't vulnerable. Breast cancer can be diagnosed at any age. It tends to be more aggressive in younger women.

Plastic Surgery Causes Breast Cancer

The good news for women who want to enhance or reduce their bust size is that there is no link between breast plastic surgery & increased breast cancer risk Implants can make mammograms more difficult, but they do not make cancer more likely. Women who have breast reduction surgery may actually see a decrease in breast cancer risk. Getting a breast reduction can reduce your risk of breast cancer by about 60 percent, depending on how much they take.

Double Mastectomy Prevents a Return of Breast Cancer

Removing a breast that has not had breast cancer does prevent breast cancer in that breast, but removing a breast that already has cancer still leaves you with a 3 to 4 percent risk of recurrence. Your survival is based on the first cancer, not on the removal of additional breast tissue.

Mammograms Aren't Accurate Anyway, So Why Bother?
 Recent controversy about the right time for women to begin having mammograms - whether they should begin at age 40 or age 50 - has left some women feeling the screening test may not be worth while. Younger women often have denser breast tissue than older women, who have more fat tissue in the breast. The denser your breasts are, the less accurate your mammogram is going to be. Having a bad mammogram is better than having none.

Self-Exams Aren't Necessary

The research is inconclusive on this question. Most of the women are not doing self-exams. But there's no downside - it's cheap & easy to do. Only good things can come from being familiar with the shape of your own breasts.

Abortion & Miscarriage Increase Breast Cancer Risk

While there is some evidence that having children before the age of 30 can reduce the risk of breast cancer, there is no research to support the idea that the early end of a pregnancy through miscarriage or abortion could increase breast cancer risk.

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