Myths About Breast Cancer

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Myths are a widely held but false belief or idea and there are many myths that persist when it relates to breast cancer, from what causes cancer to what diets or treatment plans should be followed. Here are just a few myths, along with the facts:


Myth: Breast cancer symptoms are different from symptoms of pregnancy.

Fact: Common symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea and an increased density and lumpy texture of the breasts as well as nipple discharge, are similar to those of breast cancer.For instance, breast mass during pregnancy is often thought as obstructed milk ducts while inflammatory changes in the breast are often regarded as cellulitis or mastitis (an infection of the breast tissue that causes pain, swelling, warmth or redness that affects mainly nursing women).


Myth: A scan/test during pregnancy may harm the baby.

Fact: The risk of harming the foetus while carrying out any test to detect cancer is high during the implantation (conception to two weeks) and organogenesis (organ formation from two to 12 weeks) stages.
Ultrasound is safe as it has no radiation risk. Biopsy of the lump is also safe, while mammography is possible with the aid of an abdominal shield to protect the baby from any radiation. However, X-rays, bone scans as well as CT or Pet scans can only be done after delivery.


Myth: Cancer treatment will result in abortion.

Fact: Thanks to advancement in cancer treatments, the foetus is no longer aborted in most cases. Current treatments are aimed at controlling the spread and avoiding adverse effects on the foetus, so a patient can start chemotherapy when she enters her second trimester up to 34 weeks. Chemotherapy has to stop after that to avoid any risk should she go into spontaneous labour.


Myth: Chemotherapy will transfer cancer cells to the baby as well as result in a complicated delivery process.

Fact: Studies show that cancer itself does not affect the foetus and chemotherapy does not affect its development. The delivery process, on the other hand, varies depending on the case.


Myth: Cancer treatment during pregnancy causes postnatal depression.

Fact: Although cancer and pregnancy are life stressors, there is no indication that cancer during pregnancy increases the likelihood of post-natal depression.


Myth: A mother who undergoes chemotherapy can still breastfeed.

Fact: Women undergoing chemotherapy are not allowed to continue breastfeeding. This is because the molecules will go straight into the milk ducts and this is harmful to the child.


Myth: Sugar feeds cancer.

Fact: Sugar doesn’t make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy. But giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn’t make them grow faster and starving them of sugar doesn’t make them grow slower. However, eating a lot of sugar, including desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages, can lead to weight gain, which may increase the risk of breast cancer.


Myth: Obesity causes breast cancer

Fact: many studies have found that breast cancer is less common in countries where the typical diet is low in total fat, low in polyunsaturated fat, and low in saturated fat. But most studies that looked at the amount of fat eaten by women in the United States did not find a link to breast cancer risk. This could be because women in countries where breast cancer is less common also have other differences besides the amount of fat they eat. Those differences may include how much physical activity they get, what else they eat, and genetic factors.


Myth: Most breast cancers run in families.

Fact: Only about 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, which means they are caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child. Lifestyle and environmental factors can have an impact on breast cancer risk.


Myth: finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

Fact: Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. It is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam. He or she may possibly order breast imaging studies to determine if this lump is of concern or not.

Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, getting an annual clinical breast exam, and scheduling your routine screening mammograms.


Myth: Men don’t get breast cancer

Fact: While less than 1% of new breast cancer diagnosis occur among men, it is still a possibility for men to develop the disease. For males, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1000.


Myth: removing the entire breast is safer than just removing the cancerous lump

Fact: Mastectomy (complete breast removal) is usually not more effective than just removing the cancerous lump (breast conserving surgery). There are issues with both treatments and patients need to be informed to make the right decision for them. Clinical trials have shown that mastectomy and breast conserving surgery with radiation offer the same survival.


Myth: The bigger the breast, the higher the risk of getting beast cancer

Fact: Breast cancer develop sin the cells that line the ducts or lobules – the parts that product milk and carry it to the nipple – and all women have the same number of these, regardless of breast size. What makes breasts bigger or smaller is generally the amount of fat and stroma (fibrous tissue), which research shows have little impact on cancer odds.


Myth: Does breast cancer only occur in older women?

Fact: Breast cancer can occur at any age. The risk of breast cancer increases as we grow older. In Malaysia, the overall lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is 1 in 19 women.


Myth: Eating soy foods causes breast cancer.

Fact: Studies have not linked eating soy foods to increased breast cancer risk. In fact, evidence suggests it may even lower the risk for developing breast cancer. Soy food can be eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet, both for the general population and people with breast cancer.


Myth: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

Fact: only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancerous. But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or any changes in the breast, an early consultation with doctor is recommended.


Myth: Radiation by mammography causes breast cancer

Fact: The risk of harm from radiation exposure through mammogram is very low. The benefits of early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in reducing mortality outweighs the risk of the small dose of radiation received during a mammogram.


Myth: Wearing a bra increases the risk of breast cancer

Fact: This myth appears to have started after a book called Dressed to Kill which suggested that bras obstruct toxin-laden lymph fluid from flowing out of the breast. However, this was speculation based on a survey with no scientific evidence.