Contributed by – Healthians Team

Breast cancer poses a serious health threat to women in India. Lack of awareness, discomfort and hesitation in dealing with topics about women’s bodies and general societal norms compound the issue. Even in the case of urban women who have access to information through the internet, there is an inherent risk of false information, myths and misconceptions. Also, there is the additional burden of friends, family and well-wishers coming with unsolicited advice. In the midst of all this, it can get difficult to differentiate between what’s right and what’s wrong. So, here’s a list of some popular breast cancer myths that you need to stop believing in now. 

Breast cancer family history - Healthians

Myth – If there’s no family history of breast cancer, you will not have it

Fact – Although having a family history of breast cancer does increase your risk of having it, it does not mean that you’re 100% safe otherwise. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history. Certain lifestyle choices such as a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking also play a role here. Therefore, your aim should be to eliminate such factors from your life to decrease your breast cancer risk to some extent.

[Also read – Dealing with the deadly disease: Breast Cancer]

Myth – If you’re a BRCA gene carrier, you’ll definitely get breast cancer

Fact – BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes help with cell growth, division, and damage repair and everyone has them. But some genetic mutations in these genes can increase the risk of breast cancer. These mutations can also be passed down in families. However, not everyone carrying BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations develop cancer. Also, not having these mutations guarantee no cancer risk either. 

Myth – Deodorants, underwire bras, hair dyes and cell phone use cause breast cancer

Fact – Breast cancer risk has been linked with environmental and lifestyle factors but not with the use of deodorants, underwire bras, hair dyes and cell phones. There’s no evidence to suggest that the use of any of these things is linked with an elevated risk of breast cancer. So, don’t toss them just yet. Instead, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and limit your alcohol intake. 

Breast cancer in men - Healthians

Myth – Men do not get breast cancer 

Fact – While the percentage is low, men too are at risk of developing breast cancer. Usually, breast cancer in men is detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Moreover, men have a higher risk of mortality as they are less likely to think of any lump as cancer which delays diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, just as women, men too should periodically self-examine themselves and get checked for any abnormalities.

Myth – Mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread

Fact – Mammography is widely used as a standard for early breast cancer detection. The benefits of it outweigh the potential harm it can do. In mammography, very small doses of radiation are used. The risk from that is extremely low. It is recommended that women get annual mammographic screening beginning at the age of 40. 

Myth – Breast cancer is contagious

Fact – Breast cancer is not contagious. Getting an organ transplant from an individual with cancer is one way that you may get cancer. To eliminate such a risk, a strict screening procedure of organ donors is generally followed. In the case of pregnant women, some cancers may spread from the mother to the placenta, but not to the foetus itself. In very rare cases melanoma (a form of skin cancer) has been found to spread to the placenta and the foetus. Otherwise, no healthy individual can get cancer by sharing meals, utensils, or having a sexual relationship with a cancer patient.

Breast cancer risk - Healthians

Myth – People with breast cancer always find a lump

Fact – Not all lumps in the breast are cancer and not all cancerous lumps can be felt. So, the belief that everyone with cancer will find a lump is wrong. However, if you do notice a lump or any kind of abnormal changes in your breast, then you should get it checked by a professional. 

[Also read – Not every tumor is cancerous]

Myth – Breast implants increase the risk of developing breast cancer

Fact – Breast implants make it hard to read mammograms but it is not found that they increase the risk of developing breast cancer. A woman with no breast implants may be equally at the risk of breast cancer as a woman with breast implants. 

Myth – Stress can cause breast cancer

Fact – There’s no evidence to back the claim that stress is a cause of breast cancer. But, stress can be linked with certain lifestyle choices like less physical activity or excessive alcohol consumption which in turn is related to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Eliminating them may prove beneficial.

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