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Today we’re debunking 8 common myths about breast cancer

Updated on:29 October 2020, 16:26pm IST
Although breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer today, there still exist several myths around this disease.
Dr Deepak Parashar
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breast cancer awareness
Make sure you know the facts about breast cancer. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

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.

Myth 1: Men can’t get breast cancer
Fact: Though rare, even men can develop breast cancer underneath the nipple and areola

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.

breast cancer
Breast cancer can also happen to men. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Myth 2: Cellphone in the bra can cause breast cancer
Fact: There is no evidence of any connection between carrying a cell phone in bras with breast cancer

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.

Myth 3: Wearing a bra can cause breast cancer
Fact: There is no evidence that bras cause breast cancer

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.

breast cancer
Your bra has nothing to do with your breast cancer risk. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Myth 4: If a breast lump is painful, then it is not breast cancer
Fact: Up to 10% of breast cancers are associated with pain, but that doesn’t mean that cancerous lumps can’t occur without pain

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.

Myth 5: Breast Cancer always presents itself in the form of a lump
Fact: While breast lump can be a sign of breast cancer, it can also be a sign of various non-cancerous conditions

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.

Myth 6: Wearing deodorant causes breast cancer
Fact: The research to date hasn’t found any link between deodorant and breast cancer.

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.

breast cancer
There is no link between your deodorant and breast cancer. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Myth 7: If you have a family history of breast cancer, you will get breast cancer.
Fact: Even though a family history of some types of cancers can increase the risk of cancer, it is not a surety that you will get breast cancer.

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.

Myth 8: Only older women get breast cancer.
Fact: Breast Cancer isn’t common in women under the age of 40, but 5% of total cases occur in women between the age of 20 to 40

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.

Dr Deepak Parashar Dr Deepak Parashar

Dr Deepak Parashar is associated with Healthians, a leading health testing at home service provider in India