Breast Cancer is probably the most talked-about form of cancer today. Millions upon millions of dollars are donated from regular people just like you into research that will help patients overcome breast cancer, and treatments that save lives all over the country. In spite of all the money spent on Breast Cancer Awareness, a lot of people are still woefully ill-informed about the truths of Breast Cancer, and their knowledge regarding breast cancer is largely the result of hearsay and hypotheses put forth in the past that have now become outdated. Let's talk about some of these myths now, and separate the fact from the fiction.
Fiction: Breast Cancer is Primarily Hereditary, and women are only at high risk if they have a family history of breast cancer.
Many people believe that breast cancer is for the most part a genetic condition, and that risk is carried down from parents to daughters. In reality, it is believed that only between five and ten percent of breast cancer cases are the result of genetic mutations acquired from the mother or father.
Of course, having one of these mutations can significantly increase your risk of breast cancer. For example, women that have particular BRCA mutations are eighty percent likely to experience breast cancer at some point in their lives.
Just because you have a family history doesn't mean that you are definitely going to get cancer, however. Having a daughter, sister, or mother with breast cancer, for example, doubles cancer risk. If you have two close family members with the condition, your risk increases by three times compared to average.
Out of all breast cancer cases, only around twenty to thirty percent have immediate relatives that have experienced the condition in their lives. This means that the majority of women do not experience breast cancer as a result of direct hereditary risk passed down from their relatives.
Truth: Although genetic heritage does play a role, it is not the only factor which determines breast cancer risk, and most women that get breast cancer don't express genetic predisposition.
Fiction: If someone in your family has had Breast Cancer, you will inevitably get Breast Cancer yourself.
If someone in your family has experienced Breast Cancer in the past, this is vital information that your physician needs to know. In addition to knowing that you have a history, it's also important for your physician to know how many women in your family have experienced the condition in the past. Although Breast Cancer risk increases significantly when your family has a prior history of the condition, this doesn't mean that you will definitely get breast cancer in the future.
There are ways to establish your risk, including genetic testing and counseling. One of the issues with how Breast Cancer risk is evaluated these days is that not enough women get these tests done. In fact, the percentage of women that actually receive this analysis is in the single digits! As with many other conditions, patients simply aren't open enough with their doctors, and many doctors don't readily recommend such procedures without prompting.
If your genetic evaluation says that you are at an elevated risk of Breast Cancer, this can completely change the way that your physician handles your Breast Cancer Prevention and Monitoring. For example, women at high risk benefit from earlier screening, both in the form of mammograms and MRI scanning. Breast Cancer, when caught early, has a very high rate of successful treatment, and by catching it early, it can be removed and treated before it has the chance to significantly risk your health. There are even preventative treatments available, ranging from surgery to pharmaceuticals that can be used to mitigate your breast cancer risk, dependent on your risk level.
Truth: Women with a family history shouldn't think of breast cancer as inevitable, but they should take the steps to ensure their health and safety. With proper care and screening, Breast Cancer can usually be prevented or defeated before it reaches its more dangerous stages.
Fiction: Women without a history or genetic disposition toward breast cancer have nothing they can do to mitigate their potential risk for the condition.
Some variables of Breast Cancer risk are incontrovertible. There's nothing you can do about your age, or your family history. There's nothing you can do to change when you enter puberty or reach menopause. On the other hand, there are a variety of factors that you do have the power to mitigate, and you can take an active role in your breast cancer prevention. The following are three factors to think about in particular: Activity Level, Body Composition, and Alcohol Consumption.
Activity Level - A sedentary lifestyle has been scientifically shown to increase Breast Cancer risk. Studies have shown that women that get a lot of physical activity every day have a 25% reduced breast cancer risk as compared to their counterparts that are largely sedentary. The ideal level of cardiovascular exercise in order to mitigate breast cancer risk is between 45 minutes and an hour per day, although less activity also promotes breast health. Ideally, women should undergo fairly vigorous exercise, such as swimming, cycling, or jogging. As little as 75 minutes of light cardio per week has the potential to reduce the risk of breast cancer by around 18%, however.
Body fat percentage has been strongly correlated to the risk of breast cancer in women (and men). This is even more true after Menopause. As you experience your regular periods, the ovaries are primarily responsible for the production of Estrogen, whereas adipose fat tissue produces much less. After a woman's Ovaries stop producing Estrogen at menopause, however, the body primarily relies on fat cells to produce the hormone. The amount of Estrogen that a woman produces via her body fat correlates completely with the amount of body fat she carries. Abnormally high Estrogen Levels increase breast tissue activity, which further correlates to breast cancer risk.
Alcohol Consumption - It is well documented that Alcohol suppresses Testosterone production in men by increasing the rate at which Testosterone is converted into Estrogen. Alcohol consumption also leads to an increase in breast cancer risk as well, as a result of increasing Estrogen levels in the blood stream. Specifically, each drink that a women consumes daily is associated with an increased risk of Breast Cancer of between ten and twelve percent. In addition, high levels of Alcohol consumption are also associated with other cancers such as liver, esophagus, throat, and mouth cancer.
For women that drink alcohol, the American Cancer Society suggests no more than one per day. To minimize Breast Cancer risk associated with Alcohol, it's best to not drink at all.
Truth - Lifestyle factors play a major role in cancer risk, and by improving your lifestyle, you can reduce the odds of experiencing Breast Cancer in the future.
Fiction - Injuring your breast can cause breast cancer.
Many women are under the mistaken notion that hurting one's breast can cause breast cancer. There is no evidence that bruising breast tissue can cause breast cancer. The reason that this myth first began to circulate is likely because bruising or pain in the particular area of the breast occasionally brings existing cancers to the notice of patient or physician. In these cases, the tumor has existed for awhile, but simply hasn't been noticed.
Truth - You can't get cancer from breast bruises.
Fiction - Breast Cancer is a disease which only occurs to women.
In reality, both sexes can get breast cancer. The reason why so many people think that men can't get breast cancer is because it is far more rare than female breast cancer. In fact, women get breast cancer at a rate which is a hundred times that of their male counterpart. On average, only around 2,200 men in the United States get breast cancer, whereas 230,000 women experience the disease. The mortality rates differ similarly: 400 males die each year from the condition, whereas 40,000 women die from breast cancer.
That men are not made aware of male breast cancer can be to the detriment of their health. Because they don't understand that men can get breast cancer, they frequently recognize the lumps, but simply ignore them until they become impossible to ignore, a point at which the danger of the cancer has grown dramatically and the outlook becomes far more grim.
Women have a higher incidence of breast cancer for a couple of important reasons. First, most cancers respond to progesterone and/or estrogen, feeding off of the hormones to grow. Since men don't produce nearly as much, their risk is significantly lower. Also, men have fewer breast cells than women, meaning that there are fewer possible cells to malfunction.
Truth - Although men experience breast cancer at a much lower rate, they should still see their doctor if they sense any breast tissue abnormalities.
Fiction - The ideal way to catch breast cancer is with monthly self-exams
Not too long ago, it was recommended that women give themselves monthly evaluations to check for breast lumps and other abnormalities, but this is no longer the recommended protocol of the American Cancer Society. They discovered that these examinations increased the rate of false positives while also not being all too effective at discovering real cancer. Instead, the current suggestion is simply to have knowledge of one's body, and be aware of any abnormal changes take place. The majority of women discover Breast Cancer during their normal routine, and an emphasis on awareness during routine appears to provide the best detection results.
Of course, women that are still interested in performing these monthly exams still may do so if they wish, but it is important that they learn how to perform the exams with maximum accuracy, as taught by their physician, if they wish to perform the self-exam in an optimal fashion.
If a woman feels a lump or recognizes any breast abnormalities, it is vital to talk to one's physician as soon as possible. Even if you have recently had a mammogram performed, it's still possible that the exam missed a potential cancer. It's important to not only engage in self-examination, but also to undergo Mammogram, because often, Breast Cancer tumors can be recognized before they are felt, and the earlier that Breast Cancer is treated, the more likely it can be safely removed and treated completely.
Truth - There's nothing wrong with monthly breast exams, but regular, breast awareness is more than sufficient to recognize potential breast cancer.
Fiction - Finding lumps is the only indication of Breast Cancer
All women understand that breast cancer can lead to tumors, which are referred to as lumps, but many women are unaware of other symptoms which are indicative of Breast Cancer which can be recognized, other than lumps. For example, unnatural breast discharge, scaliness and redness of the breast or nipple, pain and extreme sensitivity, dimpling, and irritation can all be signs of Breast Cancer. Some women may even experience an inversion of the nipple.
In fact, one rare but particularly dangerous type of breast cancer, known as Inflammatory Breast Cancer, is characterized by swelling, thickened skin, and redness, rather than lumps. Never assume that changes in breast health are benign or simply caused by infection. Visit a physician as soon as you can.
Truth - Lumps are the most commonly recognized symptom, but different cancers have different symptoms, and you should always take the proper precautions and make an appointment with a medical professional at the first sign of breast trouble.
Fiction - Mammograms Are Barely Worth the Time
Some women, unfortunately, have lost their faith in the effectiveness of the mammogram. In reality, mammograms are quite effective at recognizing breast cancer, with a success rate of between 80% and 90%. There's no data which can accurately reflect how Mammograms mitigate mortality risk, but there is near universal agreement that Mammograms save women's live on a regular basis. The general consensus is that when women turn forty, they should start getting yearly Mammograms.
Truth - Mammograms are an effective means to monitor for breast cancer.
Fiction - Deodorants Can Cause Breast Cancer
There are websites and emails which claim that Deodorants and Antiperspirants have the ability to cause breast cancer, by inhibiting immune function by blocking the lymph nodes. By inhibiting immune function, they supposedly increase toxin concentrations in the breast tissue There is next to no evidence that suggests that this is even a possibility.
One major study surveyed whether women with and without breast cancer used deodorant, in an attempt to see if there was any correlation with the use of such products and breast cancer. No significant connection was found. Shaving also had no notable impact on breast cancer rate.
Truth - Antiperspirants have absolutely zero noted connection with Breast Cancer.