While there’s an abundance of information on breast cancer available to us, there’s also plenty of breast cancer myths we need to know about. Because it when it comes to diagnosing and treating breast cancer, the more we can safeguard ourselves against incorrect or inaccurate information, the better. According to Breast Imaging Specialists, Dr. Shirley Lipschitz and Dr. Liat Malek, from the Breast Wellness Centre in Johannesburg, breast cancer myths doing the rounds are one of the biggest causes of late or misdiagnosis altogether. This can be deadly as early and accurate detection saves lives, so it’s important to arm yourself with the facts on breast cancer.
Here are six common breast cancer myths;
If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you don’t need screening.
Less than 10% of people diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history, and less than 5% have a hereditary gene. The majority of people diagnosed have no family history of breast cancer.
Mammograms are dangerous.
Mammograms are a source of radiation, much like any X-Ray, however these have never been proven to cause breast cancer. Through many studies and trials, it’s evident that out of one million women, having annual mammograms from 30 to 40 years, only one or two women will develop a cancer as a result of the mammogram itself. In fact, the dose of a single mammogram is comparable to the radiation one would be exposed to on a flight to, for example, London.
Only some women can develop breast cancer.
Based on 2014 statistics in South Africa, breast cancer is the most common cancer in white, Asian and coloured women, and the second most common cancer in black women.
Breast cancer affects only women.
Men can also develop breast cancer but the occurrence of this is low at less than 1%.
You don’t need a mammogram unless you feel a lump.
The aim of a mammogram is to diagnose breast cancer as early as possible, even before any signs or symptoms develop. By the time a lump is felt, the breast cancer may have already progressed and started spreading outside the breast. Early breast cancer is easier and more successful to treat.
Breast cancer can’t be treated.
Breast cancer is treatable and can be cured. There are many new and improved methods of treatment, both surgical and/or through the use of hormonal therapy, chemotherapy and/or radiation. The earlier breast cancer is found and treated, the more likely it is to be successfully eradicated – but more advanced cancers can also be successfully treated.
To provide further clarity on breast cancer, the Breast Wellness Clinic answers some FAQ’s:
When should you start having regular mammograms?
Women should start regular screening mammograms at the age of 40. Research has shown that when women start screening from the age of 40, more lives are saved. Women at high risk for breast cancer should consult a breast specialist as they may need to be monitored differently.
Who is at higher risk for breast cancer?
There are multiple factors that may contribute to a women being at higher risk for breast cancer, including: family history, genetic factors (BRCA1 and BRCA2 – sometimes referred to as the Angelina Jolie gene), personal history, and hormonal factors. If you think you are at a higher risk to develop breast cancer, please consult a physician.
How often should you have a mammogram?
Mammograms should be done annually or every two years.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
- A lump or thickening in the breast, or in the armpit.
- Skin dimpling and/or redness of the skin.
- Nipple changes such as a nipple discharge, nipple inversion, discoloration or eczema-like changes.
- Shrinkage of the breast or increase in size of the breast.
What is 3D mammography?
3D mammography or Tomosynthesis is an advanced, relatively new technology, which scans small sections of the breast. This allows the radiologist to look through the breast tissue, improving the detection of small breast cancers. When combined with the correct software, 3D mammography or Tomosynthesis uses less or the same amount of radiation as regular 2D mammograms.
Access to accurate information, from reputable sources, is critical to getting the correct diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer – but so is being prepared with relevant insurance, such as 1st for Women’s All Women Dread Disease Cover, which provides cover for female cancers, including breast cancer.