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Nothing but the facts about breast cancer

Posted Monday, Oct. 22, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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There is a lot of information out there about breast cancer. From friends who have had the disease to the Internet and a plethora of pamphlets, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and even easier to wind up misinformed. We've talked to cancer experts to debunk 10 breast cancer myths that may be preventing you from having the most factual information about the disease, which affects thousands each year.

Myth: Deodorant causes breast cancer.

Fact: Dr. Prasanthi Ganesa, a medical oncologist at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth, says during surgery and radiation for breast cancer treatment, doctors ask that patients temporarily stop using deodorant. However, Ganesa says the request is simply to prevent skin irritation, and it has nothing to do with the cancer. "There is no scientific evidence that any deodorant causes breast cancer," she says.

Myth: If no one in your family had breast cancer, you won't get it.

Fact: While having a family history of breast cancer does increase your risk of developing the disease, Ganesa says 90 percent of breast cancers are not inherited. Chandini Portteus, vice president of research, evaluation and scientific programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, agrees: "The bulk of breast cancers are not hereditary."

Myth: Young people don't have to worry about breast cancer.

Fact: While breast cancer is more often seen in older women, young women are not immune. Dr. Robin Skrine, medical director of the breast program at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, says it's important for women in their 20s to perform monthly self breast exams. Portteus says breast cancer risk increases with age, but all women are at risk.

Myth: Women with large breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.

Fact: Ganesa says that the only thing breast size can impact is the ability to feel small tumors with a self exam. "The size of the breast has nothing to do with the chances of you getting breast cancer," she says.

Myth: If you detect a lump in your breast, you have breast cancer.

Fact: According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, eight out of 10 breast lumps are benign. If you feel a lump or detect a change in a self-examination, it's important to see your doctor immediately, but it's not necessarily a reason to panic.

Myth: Having surgery to remove breast cancer increases the risk for the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

Fact: Ganesa says she has heard many patients worry that "making a cut" will increase the spread of cancer cells to the rest of the body. "Surgery remains a cornerstone of treatment of breast cancer," she says. "It's usually the first thing women need." Skrine has also heard patients who are fearful of this myth of "air hitting the cancer" worry about biopsies and surgery. "The key thing is that the sooner you diagnose and treat the cancer, the better your prognosis," she says.

Myth: Mammograms can cause cancer.

Fact: Portteus says there is a big push to understand the risks of certain medical tests, especially those that expose you to radiation. But currently, with the information out there, the Komen foundation believes that the risk of radiation does not outweigh the benefit of screening. Talk to your doctor about when to start getting mammograms.

Myth: Breast cancer is not curable.

Fact: Breast cancer survivors are called that for a reason, Ganesa says. "In Stages I, II or III, breast cancer is a potentially curable disease," she says. While breast cancer can come back, it often doesn't, and the likelihood of its recurrence depends on the stage.

Myth: Men aren't at risk for breast cancer.

Fact: According to the CDC, for every 100 cases of breast cancer, less than one of them is a man. Though it's far less common, it's certainly far from impossible. In fact, Skrine says that because of this myth, when men get breast cancer it's typically more advanced, as it has likely gone undetected.

Myth: If your mother had breast cancer, you will have breast cancer.

Fact: According to the American Cancer Society, only about 5 percent to 10 percent of all cases of breast cancer in the United States are due to inherited gene mutations. While a family history can put you at an increased risk for developing breast cancer, it is far from a sure thing.

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