Breast Cancer Myths: What’s True and What Isn't (Episode II)

Mythbusters Diaries (Part 10): Breast Cancer Myths: What’s True and What Isn’t (Episode II)

Contributed by: Rachana Arya

 

Even if certain breast cancer myths are untrue, one can hardly blame people for being worried about it, given that it is the most common and most-talked-about cancer. While some breast cancer risk factors are beyond our control, learning and knowing our risks will help us make the best decisions for ourselves and our loved ones.

Read on to understand the myths — and the truth — behind common breast cancer misconceptions. Don’t forget to check out Part I of our Breast Cancer Mythbusters.

 

Myth #1: Wearing an underwire bra causes breast cancer

Fact:

The theory was that wearing a bra — especially an underwired style — could daily prevent your pores from being able to breathe, causing sweat and toxins to build up in the tissue. However, there’s no scientific evidence linking bra type (including underwire bras), to an elevated risk for breast cancer.

 

Myth #2: Deodorants can cause breast cancer

Fact:

People are sometimes concerned about whether harmful chemicals in everyday products like deodorants and antiperspirants affect the risk of cancer. No clinical studies have yet given a definitive answer to support this claim. Antiperspirants and deodorants are safe to use and even the strongest antiperspirant doesn’t block all perspiration in the armpit.

 

Myth #3: Breast cancer is a single disease

Fact:

Breast cancer was once assumed to be a single disease. However, we now know that breast cancer is a complex group of different types of tumors. It can be detected at various stages and grows at different rates. This means that patients can receive a variety of treatments based on what works best for them.

 

Myth #4: Mammograms cause breast cancer

Fact:

Mammography currently remains the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer.  A mammogram can detect lumps well before they can be felt, and the earlier that lumps are caught, the better one’s chances for survival. While it’s true that mammograms do involve radiation exposure, the dose used is so low that any associated risks are tiny when compared to the benefits.

 

Myth #5: Breast cancer is a lifestyle disease

Fact:

Breast cancer is not a lifestyle disease; nevertheless, common environmental and behavioral factors do play a role in the likelihood of getting the disease and experiencing a recurrence. We must be careful not to make patients feel guilty for their disease because of the way they spent their lives. The evidence regarding l’s contributory influence, on the other hand, is mixed.

 

Myth #6: Thinking positively can cure cancer

Fact:

To date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that a positive attitude will prevent cancer, help people with cancer live longer, or keep cancer from coming back. A ‘positive mindset’ doesn’t cure cancer just as a ‘negative mindset’ doesn’t cause cancer. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to feeling a wide range of emotions if you are diagnosed with cancer. It is important to remember that it’s absolutely normal to feel sad, angry, or discouraged sometimes and positive or upbeat at other times. While it helps to maintain a positive outlook, nevertheless placing too much importance on attitude could lead to unnecessary guilt and disappointment if health does not improve.

 

Myth #7: Cancer is a death sentence

Fact:

Recent advances in medicine have changed the way cancer is treated. New technology has also allowed for more targeted, highly effective treatments that eliminate cancer cells without hurting healthy tissue and have fewer side effects. As scientists understand cancer better and develop improved treatments, there are improvements in treatments, drugs, and public attitudes. Today cancer is no longer seen as a death sentence.

 

When to see a doctor?

Finding breast cancer early – when it’s small, has not spread – is easier to treat. Seek medical attention for:

 

  • changes in the size, shape, or texture of the breasts
  • a new lump in the breast or underarm that does not go away
  • tenderness and pain in the breast
  • unusual discharge from the nipple

 

The bottom line

Just because you have cancer does not mean that you allow cancer to have you. 

 

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