Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer.
In 2020 alone, more than 2.3 million people received a diagnosis and approximately 685,000 people died from this cancer. Due to its high prevalence, it is common for it to be surrounded by erroneous beliefs that make it difficult for patients to obtain an adequate diagnosis and treatment in early stages. Here we review the main myths surrounding breast cancer.
Myth 1: Only women can get breast cancer
TRUE: This is perhaps one of the most common myths surrounding breast cancer, but, as many specialists point out, men also have breasts, which is why they can develop this type of cancer.
It is true that the probability is much lower, it is estimated that men represent between 0.5 and 1% of breast cancer cases. However, it’s still important that they also be aware of any changes in their breasts, such as lumps, thickening, skin or nipple changes, or discharge.
Myth 2: Breast cancer only happens to older adults
TRUE: Once again we are faced with a widespread myth, but not for that reason true. Although the risk of breast cancer increases with age, and the average age of a new diagnosis is 61 years, cases have also been recorded in women under 40 years of age (some sources agree that this group represents 5% of all cases).
For this reason, all young and adult women are advised to report any worrisome findings in their breasts to their doctors and to have an annual mammogram.
Myth 3: There is no risk of developing breast cancer if there is no family history
TRUE: Many experts agree that only 5% to 10% of breast cancers are caused by a genetic mutation that is passed down through family members. That is, most cases are sporadic or do not have a hereditary cause. Therefore, not having a family history of breast cancer is not a guarantee.
- 10 myths around cancer
Health professionals emphasize that the most important risk factor for developing breast cancer is being a woman.
Myth 4: An injury to the breast can cause breast cancer
TRUE: Many times an injury to the breast can cause symptoms that are confused with those of breast cancer, however, it cannot cause it. To clear any doubt, it is recommended to visit a doctor.
Myth 5: All breast lumps indicate breast cancer
TRUE: Any new lump found in the breast should be evaluated, however, most of them are usually benign. The chance that they are harmless is even higher if you had a recent mammogram that was normal.
Myth 6: There is only breast cancer when there is a lump
TRUE: This is false, as some breast cancers are never palpable and can still spread to other parts of the body. Also, if only the lumps indicated breast cancer, mammograms would not be necessary.
Specialists point out that it is not necessary to “feel something” to decide to carry out a check-up. If breast cancer is diagnosed and treated while it is in stage 1, survival approaches 100%, so it is important to have yearly mammograms.
Myth 7: Mammograms cause breast cancer to spread
TRUE: No way. It is often believed that compression that occurs during mammography or biopsy with a needle can spread cancer to other parts of the body, but this is not true.
The researchers explain that mammograms are performed with very low doses of radiation and compression, which have no theoretical or documented relationship with the origin of breast cancer.
Myth 8: Wearing underwire bras increases the risk of breast cancer
TRUE: No, wearing underwire bras may not increase your risk of developing breast cancer, although some experts recommend avoiding them, as the underwire can irritate the skin under the breast, causing damage and even infection.
Myth 9: Nipple piercings increase the risk of breast cancer
TRUE: This is false. Although nipple piercings can cause certain complications, such as infections, nerve damage, cysts, or abscesses, there is no evidence that they can also cause breast cancer.
Myth 10: Sugar causes breast cancer
TRUE: There is a widespread myth that excessive and constant intake of sugar can help tumors grow, because cancer cells need a lot of energy to divide quickly.
The truth is that there is no scientific evidence to support this belief, however, health professionals recommend avoiding or limiting the intake of sugar (added or present in processed products) as it increases the risk of other problems, such as heart disease and inflammatory, or diabetes.
In recent years, important advances have been made in the treatment of breast cancer. Much of this success is due to the combination of early detection and effective therapies, based on surgery, radiotherapy and pharmacotherapy. To help reduce the risk of breast cancer or find it early you should:
- Talk to your doctor about screening for breast cancer.
- Familiarize yourself with your breasts during a breast self-exam.
- Do not drink alcohol or do so in moderation.
- Exercise regularly.
- If so, limit postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Maintain a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, cereals and legumes.
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine, World Health Organization (WHO), American Cancer Society.