In this age of information overload, it’s very easy for people to look up their symptoms on the internet and self diagnose. But that’s where the problem starts in terms of falling prey to misinformation and rumours.
Breast cancer is one of the better-known cancers and has been subject to various awareness campaigns. Still, there are a plethora of myths and misconceptions about it that need to be addressed.
Only those who have experienced breast cancer closely genuinely understand what it is, others may fall into the trap of myths and rumours, and might not truly realise the underlying reasons and risks of the disease.
Here, we dispel eight persistent myths about breast cancer and its causes.
This myth around male breast cancer arises from an improper understanding of human biology. Whether male or female, all people have breast cells and tissues. Even though men do not develop milk-producing parts, breast cells and tissues can develop cancer. One in 1000 men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer, and it is usually detected as a lump underneath the nipple and areola.
Of all breast cancer cases, only 1% of cases happen in men, but the mortality in men is much higher when compared to women. The reason for the higher mortality rate can be attributed to lack of awareness amongst men regarding the symptoms of cancer and delay in seeking treatment.
Even though people worry that radiation from mobile phones can cause cancer, there has been no such recorded case or any evidence to support the claim. Many media reports have raised concerns that carrying a cell phone in your bra can lead to breast cancer, but no research has yet been conducted about the same.
Rumours and misinformation on the internet have fueled myths that wearing a bra or a particular variety of bra, like underwire bras can lead to breast cancer. There is no scientific proof to support this claim. A 2014 study of roughly 1,500 women with breast cancer found no link between bra-wearing and breast cancer.
Pain is very rarely the indicator of breast cancer, but it may or may not accompany a cancerous lump. Breast pain is the third most common non-cancerous breast complaint and may be caused by a variety of conditions. If a patient has breast pain, they should get mammography done just to be sure.
While a majority of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a lump, it is not always necessary. A lump is just one of the symptoms, and even if unnoticeable, breast cancer can still occur in women of all ages. Therefore, women should check for redness of nipples, change in the size, shape or symmetry of your breast, thickening or swelling of the breast, nipple tenderness or pain, etc. during a self-check.
This myth is based on the fact that underarm antiperspirants or deodorants are applied near the breast, and may contain potentially harmful ingredients. Even though several scientists and others have suggested a possible connection between their use and breast cancer, there is no hard evidence to support the claim and until research proves it otherwise, you need not give up on your deodorants.
If your family has a history of breast cancer, it doesn’t mean that you will get it too. However, it is important that you are aware of the causes, risks and undergo tests regularly.
Also, most women with breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease. In fact, only about 13% of women with breast cancer have a close relative with breast cancer.
Women, in general, need to be aware of spotting the early signs of breast cancer, as it can happen even to those who are at moderate risk. The exact causes are still unknown, so one needs to be aware and informed.
Breast cancer is rare in ages below 40, and only makes up a small portion of the total number of cases. But it is the most common cancer for women in the age group of 20-40. Even though rare, breast cancer in younger women is as catastrophic as for women under 40, breast cancer is often diagnosed in its later stages, when it tends to be more aggressive. Due to this, the survival rate for the age group is low.
Being aware of this myth is highly essential as the diagnosis of breast cancer in younger women is more challenging because of firmer breasts.