Medical Myths: 15 breast cancer misconceptions
15 breast cancer myths busted
The World Health Organization (WHO), Trusted Source
– Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women worldwide.
– In 2018 alone, about 2.1 million cases of breast cancer occurred around the globe.
– This makes it the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women.
– However, this doesn’t mean that everyone gets breast cancer.
– Only one out of eight cancers are caused by genetics, while the rest are due to environmental factors.
– For example, smoking increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
The BEZZY Community is a place where women diagnosed with breast cancer can come together to talk about it, support one another, and find out what resources are available to help them along the way. We offer free access to tools like our online forum, Facebook group, and Twitter feed, as well as information and resources to empower you every step of the way.
1. A breast injury can cause breast cancer
Dr. Zeidman explains how a breast injury can lead to breast cancer.
A few weeks ago I received a call from my friend’s husband asking me about his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer. He had been told by her doctor that she had stage 2 breast cancer. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and now she is being treated with radiation therapy. Her prognosis is good. But what happened next surprised him.
He asked me whether there was anything else that could have caused his wife’s breast cancer. In particular, he wondered whether she had ever sustained an injury to her breasts.
I know that injuries to the breast are rare, but I thought that maybe he had heard of one case where someone’s breast was injured during childbirth, causing breast cancer later in life. So I did some research, and found out that such cases do happen.
In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, “injury to the breast cannot breast cancer, however, it can cause changes that may mimic breast cancer…on imaging.” This is known as fat necrosis.
Fat necrosis occurs when adipose tissue cells die off because of trauma, infection, inflammation, or even hormonal fluctuations. These dead cells accumulate in the breast and can sometimes look like a lump on a mammogram. However, unlike lumps, fat necrosis does not require further evaluation or treatment.
The best way to distinguish cancerous lesions from fat necrosis is through a needle biopsy. If you suspect that you or someone you love might have fat necrosis, talk to your physician about getting a needle biopsy done.
1. A breast injury can cause breast cancer
A breast injury can lead to breast cancer. But how do you know whether or not the injury caused the cancer? This week, we are talking about injury to the breast. Zeidman explains what happens when a woman gets hurt during pregnancy, mastitis, infection, or surgery.
Zeidman says that many women think that breast injuries can cause breast cancer. However, there is no evidence that supports this idea. In fact, most studies show that injury does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
However, Zeidman says that some women still believe that breast trauma causes breast cancer. He points out that breast tissue is very sensitive to trauma, especially during pregnancy. If you have had a recent injury to the breast, Zeidman recommends seeing your doctor. They can help rule out cancer by performing a needle biopsy.
2. Underwire bras increase the risk of breast cancer
Although underwire bras do not cause breast cancer, they are still associated with increased risk, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. In the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 3 million women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II. They found that wearing an underwire bra for 20 years or longer increases the risk of developing invasive breast cancer by 24%.
Dr. Zeidman always recommends bras without a wire. He explains: “The wire can irritate the skin under the breast, which can lead to skin break down. This break down may allow bacteria to enter the breast causing infection, abscess, or both.”
3. IVF increases the risk of breast cancer
As part of the in vitro fertility treatment process, doctors often prescribe drugs to stimulate the ovaries to make eggs. These drugs mimic the activity estrogen, and some experts wondered whether they could promote the growth of estrogen receptor positive breast cancers.
In fact, there are no randomized controlled trails looking to answer this question. But a recent meta analysis of all observational studies over 30 years found no increased risk of breast cancer among women who used these drugs.
4. No one in my family had breast cancer, so I won’t develop it
Dr. Zeidman explains that many people believe that having a family member diagnosed with breast cancer makes them more likely to develop the disease themselves. He says that while there is some truth to this idea, it doesn’t apply to everyone.
“The reality is that about 90% of women with breast cancer do not have a positive family history,” says Dr. Zeidman. “In other words, you don’t know whether you are at high risk unless you have a relative with breast cancer.”
He adds that even though there are genetic mutations associated with increased risk, those mutations aren’t always inherited, meaning someone without a family history could still develop breast cancer.
What does that mean for you? Dr. Zeidman says that the best thing you can do is make sure you’re getting regular mammograms starting at age 40. If you find something suspicious during a screening test, you should talk to your doctor immediately.
5. Being stressed can cause breast cancer
With the ever-present stresses associated with living in today’s world, it is no surprise many people are concerned about how those pressures could impact their health. But while some studies do show that stress can negatively affect our physical well-being, others suggest that stress actually doesn’t play a role in causing certain diseases like cancer.
Dr. David Zeidman, director of the Cancer Prevention and Population Science Program at the American Institute for Cancer Research, says that he has seen no data showing that stress increases the risk of breast cancer.
He adds that even though stress can contribute to poor health outcomes, part of being human is learning to find effective ways to cope with the stress we all inevitably face.
6. A healthy lifestyle eliminates breast cancer risk
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that while obesity increases the risk of breast cancer, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life helps reduce that risk.
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 200,000 women enrolled in the National Health Interview Survey, conducted between 2001 and 2012. They found that among premenopausal women, those who had a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2) had a lower incidence of breast cancer compared to obese women (30.0+ kg/m2). Among postmenopausal women, however, no association was observed between BMI and breast cancer.
In addition, the researchers found that maintaining a healthy weight throughout adulthood decreased the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. In fact, a woman who maintained her normal weight throughout her lifetime had about half the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer compared to someone who gained 40 pounds during adulthood.
However, Dr. Zeidman noted that while it is true that post menopausal women who are overweight are at an increased risk of having breast cancer, there is absolutely nothing that a woman can’t do to minimize her risk. He added, even women who undergo bilateral mastectomies are still at risk of getting another breast cancer.
He went on to explain that there are many factors involved in determining whether or not a person gets breast cancer, including genetics, age, family history, ethnicity, diet, physical activity and alcohol intake.
Dr. Zeidman concluded his comments by saying, I am not suggesting that people start smoking and eating fast food every single day.Instead, he advised women to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet.