By: Dr. Phillip Chae Midland Health
While millions of people are breast cancer survivors, it remains one of the most common cancers affecting women. Regardless of the high survival rate of breast cancer, I often hear misconceptions or myths about the disease. In this day and age of online information, it’s easy to get bombarded by what I often refer to as “Dr. Google.” It’s important to have the facts and dispel common myths surrounding breast cancer.
–Myth No.1: You’ll get breast cancer only if you have a family history.
Breast cancer cannot be inherited, but a higher risk of developing it can be inherited through gene mutations.
Only 5 percent to 10 percent of cancers are from inherited gene mutations, and about 85 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease. If you have a strong family history of cancer, genetic testing can identify your risk for certain types of cancer, including breast and ovarian. The testing provides information and the opportunity not only to reduce the risk of cancer, but also to save lives. Detecting cancer early is one of the most important things people can do to protect their health and significantly increase the chances of successful outcomes.
–Myth No. 2: If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you must have your breasts removed.
A breast cancer diagnosis does not automatically result in a mastectomy.
Most women diagnosed with breast cancer will need some form of surgery as part of their treatment, but it will vary with each case. Some women need removal of a small piece of breast tissue (lumpectomy), while others will need one or both breasts removed, and possibly lymph nodes. The type and stage of the cancer will determine the need for a mastectomy. Your breast surgeon and you will determine what type of surgery is best for you.
–Myth No. 3: Lumps in your breasts means you have breast cancer.
In truth, there are many conditions that may cause breast lumps, and for women under 30, lumps are typically benign (non-cancerous).
Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to other less-known symptoms of breast cancer, including change in breast size, shape or color; nipple color change, nipple retraction and/or discharge; dimpled skin near the breast; an underarm lump; and isolated pain. If you experience any unusual pain or change in your breast, you should consult a physician.
While these are common symptoms of breast cancer, changes in your breasts can also indicate other non-cancerous conditions. If you need to further investigate, the Breast Center with Midland Health can provide you the services necessary to give you answers.
Myth No. 4: Breast cancer only affects women.
Breast cancer is more common in women; however, men can also be diagnosed. About 1 in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime. It was estimated in 2018, that about 2,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer would be diagnosed in men, and nearly 500 men would die from breast cancer.
Breast cancer can have a huge impact on the lives of those diagnosed and their families, but with regular screenings and advanced technology and treatments, more people than ever are surviving this disease. Early detection saves lives.
Dr. Phillip Chae is with Texas Oncology – Allison Cancer Center.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.