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12 Common Breast Cancer Myths Dispelled

So, you’re on top of your breast health. Great! You understand your risk factors. You do your monthly self-exams and get your yearly mammogram. And you know the facts about breast cancer. Or do you?

Jeannette Kaplun, TV host, journalist and CEO of Hispana Global

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second-most deadly. “Breast cancer will affect one out of every eight U.S. women in their lifetime,” noted Jeannette Kaplun, a TV host and journalist who is also CEO of Hispana Global. “And even though we’ve made huge advances in treatment, more than 42,000 people will die in the U.S. from the disease this year alone.”

Ms. Kaplun wants to help raise awareness about breast cancer, which led to her hosting a recent Baptist Health Resource Live program on the subject. “We want to dispel the myths,” she said, “because knowledge is power.”

Ms. Kaplun’s guest on the program was Jane Méndez, M.D., [1] chief of breast surgery at Miami Cancer Institute. A board certified surgical oncologist who specializes in the treatment of breast cancer, Dr. Mendez shared her thoughts about breast health and dispelled 12 common breast cancer myths.

12 Common Myths About Breast Cancer

MYTH #1: If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you don’t have to worry about getting breast cancer. 

Jane Mendez, M.D., chief of breast surgery at Miami Cancer Institute

FACT: Many women think that if they don’t have a family history of breast cancer, they don’t have to worry about getting it. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth since 85 percent of breast cancers occur sporadically. The two main risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. For example, when you’re in your 50s, you have a one in 50 chance of getting breast cancer. When you’re in your 70s, it’s one in 13. And, when you’re in your 80s, it’s one in 10.  

MYTH #2: Caffeine increases risk of breast cancer. 

FACT: There is no causal connection between caffeinated products and breast cancer; however, there is a connection between caffeinated products and breast pain, as well as fibrocystic breast changes. “So enjoy your cup of coffee.”

MYTH #3: Use of deodorant is associated with risk of breast cancer, especially if they contain aluminum.

FACT: Although this is a common myth, there is no risk associated with use of deodorant or antiperspirant.  

MYTH #4: Wearing an underwire bra is associated with risk of breast cancer. 

FACT: There is no evidence to support that bras cause breast cancer. However, underwire bras are associated with breast pain or breast tenderness.

MYTH #5: Breast cancer always comes in the form of a mass. 

FACT: Not all breast cancers present as a mass. By the same token, not all breast masses are cancerous. Breast cancer can present in different ways, such as changes in the skin, nipple discharge, assymetry or differences in the size of one breast compared to the other and/or as a mass in the area under the arm (the axilla). 

MYTH #6: Breast cancer is associated with breast pain. 

FACT: Breast pain is usually not one of the first symptoms of breast cancer nor is it usually associated with breast cancer. That said, if breast cancer causes pain, it’s usually indicative of an advanced stage of breast cancer.  

MYTH #7: The smaller the breast size, the less risk of breast cancer. 

FACT: There’s no correlation between breast size and the likelihood of developing breast cancer. 

MYTH #8: Use of a cell phone increases the risk of breast cancer. 

FACT: Increased use of cell phones has gained popularity, but there’s no evidence to support this.  

MYTH #9: Exposure of radiation during mammograms increases risk of breast cancer. 

FACT: The dose of radiation exposure during mammograms is very small. The benefit of detecting breast cancer through a mammogram and not delaying a diagnosis greatly outweighs any risks.  

MYTH #10:  Alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer. 

FACT: There’s no direct causal relationship between alcohol and breast cancer. However, as part of a healthy lifestyle, we advise women against excessive use of alcohol. Everything should be in moderation. There is a causal relationship between alcohol and other cancers, such as liver cancer, but not with breast cancer. But if you’re going to drink alcohol, we think red wine might be better because it contains phenolic acids which may protect against breast cancer.

MYTH #11: Having breast implants increases risk of breast cancer. 

FACT: Texturized implants are associated with a rare form of breast associated lymphoma. Women with implants need to know that during their mammogram, the technician needs to modify his/her technique to displace the implant so he/she can see the breast tissue properly and determine whether there’s an abnormality. That said, the implants themselves do not increase the likelihood of breast cancer. 

MYTH #12: Women with lumpy breasts (fibrocystic changes) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. 

FACT: Fibrocystic breast changes do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The younger you are, the denser your breast tissue. Women with dense breasts need to complement their mammogram with an ultrasound since breast density lowers the sensitivity of the mammogram.

Wrapping up the program, Dr. Mendez said it’s important that women know their body and their family history. “Empower yourself with education so you really know the facts,” she said. “And when you see something, take action and don’t delay it because early detection is key, as you know.”

Watch the complete Resource Live program: “Dispelling 12 Myths of Breast Cancer.” [2]

During the month of October, Baptist Health South Florida is offering discounted mammograms for patients without insurance. For more information, visit baptisthealth.net/breasthealth or call Miami Cancer Institute at 786-573-6000.