Myth: Small breasted women do not get breast cancer.
A: False. Every woman is at risk regardless of breast size, race or socioeconomic status.
Myth: Breast cancer only affects older women.
A: No. While it's true that the risk of Breast Cancer increases as we grow older, breast cancer can occur at any age.
Myth: If you have a risk factor for breast cancer, you're likely to get the disease.
A: No. Getting breast cancer is not a certainty, even if you have one of the stronger risk factors, like a breast cancer gene abnormality. Of women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited genetic abnormality, 40–80% will develop breast cancer over their lifetime; 20–60% won't.
Myth: If breast cancer doesn't run in your family, you won't get it.
A: No. Every woman has some risk of breast cancer. About 80% of women who get breast cancer have no known family history of the disease. Increasing age – just the wear and tear of living – is the biggest single risk factor for breast cancer. For those women who do have a family history of breast cancer, your risk may be elevated a little, a lot, or not at all.
Myth: Only your mother's family history of breast cancer can affect your risk.
A: No. A history of breast cancer in your mother's OR your father's family will influence your risk equally.
Myth: Birth control pills cause breast cancer.
A: No. Modern day birth control pills contain a low dose of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Many research studies show no association between birth control pills and an increased risk of breast cancer. However, one study that combined the results of many different studies did show an association between birth control pills and a very small increase in risk. The study also showed that this slight increase in risk decreased over time. So after 10 years, birth control pills were not associated with an increase in risk.
Myth: Eating high-fat foods causes breast cancer.
A: No. Several large studies have not been able to demonstrate a clear connection between eating high-fat foods and a higher risk of breast cancer. Excess body weight, IS a risk factor for breast cancer, because the extra fat increases the production of estrogen outside the ovaries and adds to the overall level of estrogen in the body.
Myth: A monthly breast self-exam is the best way to diagnose breast cancer.
A: While that is better than nothing, finding lumps and irregularities in breast tissue may be more difficult with wet, soapy fingers. The best way is while lying down, about a week after your period every month.
Myth: I'm at high risk for breast cancer and there's nothing I can do about it.
A: No. There are several effective ways to reduce—but not eliminate—the risk of breast cancer in women at high risk. Options include lifestyle changes (minimize alcohol consumption, stop smoking, exercise regularly), medication; and in cases of very high risk, surgery may be offered (prophylactic mastectomies, and for some women, prophylactic ovary removal). Be sure that you have consulted with a physician or genetic counselor before you make assumptions about your level of risk.
Myth: A breast cancer diagnosis is an automatic death sentence.
A: No. 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no signs of metastases (no cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes). Furthermore, 80% of these women live at least five years, most longer, and many live much longer. Even women with signs of cancer metastases can live a long time. Plus promising treatment breakthroughs are becoming available each day.