Quick: list five things you know about breast cancer. Now, consider how many of these you you know without a doubt are true. Surprisingly, many women think they know a significant amount about breast cancer and risk factors, but in reality, social media and pseudo-news sources have perpetrated a number of breast health myths. In preparation for October, which is breast cancer awareness month, here are four common breast cancer myths and the truths behind them.
Myth #1: Deodorant and antiperspirant causes breast cancer
In reality, the National Cancer Institute has found no link between deodorant or antiperspirant and breast cancer. A number of studies have been conducted that look at possible links between breast cancer and underarm products, including deodorants that contain aluminum. This myth may have developed out of a misunderstanding regarding how to prepare for a mammogram. Women undergoing mammograms are advised to avoid wearing aluminum-containing deodorants, as the aluminum may interfere with the ability to develop a clear x-ray study of the breast. This could potentially lead to an inaccurate mammogram reading.
Myth #2: A normal mammogram means I can stop monitoring my breasts
If you have had a mammogram and the results show that your breasts are healthy, don’t stop monitoring your breast health. Breast cancer and other non-cancerous abnormalities may develop at any age. It is important to continue your monthly breast self-exams and annual or semi-annual mammograms (depending on your age and risk factors). If you have had a mammogram because you found a breast lump and the study showed no abnormalities, you may need additional testing. Such testing might include an MRI, ultrasound, or biopsy to either confirm that the breasts are healthy or to look for other possible abnormalities that may need further evaluation.
Myth #3: I found a lump. Obviously, I have breast cancer
In reality, most breast lumps are benign. Often, they result from hormonal fluctuations, and some women simply have denser breast tissue to begin with. However, the only way to find out if your breast lump is cancerous is to undergo a thorough medical evaluation. Thankfully, the vast majority of lumps are non-cancerous. Be sure to have your doctor evaluate any breast lumps and ask for your doctor’s guidance in determining the difference between harmless lumps and those that are cause for concern during your future self breast exams. The majority of breast lumps are cysts or fibroadenomas (non-cancerous growths), and many come and go with a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Myth #4: A mammogram will increase my risk of developing breast cancer
Although mammograms are a type of x-ray, the benefit of the study far outweighs any potential risks due to the x-ray radiation from this type of study. Compared to other radiology studies, the amount of radiation in a mammogram is quite low and uses very small doses to image the breasts. According to the National Cancer Institute, you should begin to have screening mammograms annually at the age of 40. Currently, mammograms are the single most effective, non-invasive study for detecting breast cancer.
Because breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, keeping your breasts healthy is a step toward keeping your entire body healthy and increasing your longevity. Be sure to perform your monthly breast self exams and seek out a full medical evaluation right away if you find any abnormalities. If you find an abnormality, don’t know how to perform a breast self-exam, or would like to learn more about your options for preserving or restoring your breasts relative to breast cancer treatment, please call Monarch Plastic Surgery today to schedule a consultation. For our Leawood and Lansing offices, please call (913) 663-3838, and for our North Kansas office, please call us at (816) 436-3262. We look forward to seeing you soon.