BREAST CANCER AWARENESS: Myths and Misinformation

This is the fourth in a series of articles being published by CDI in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October 2020).

There are many sources of helpful and accurate information about breast cancer, for those who have been diagnosed with the disease and their families and loved ones. There is also a lot of misinformation out there, too, so it’s important to go to a reliable and widely-accepted source. A partial list of dependable organizations and information is given below.

Some of the most common “myths” include:

MYTH:  Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

FACT:  Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer.  But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. See a physician right away for a clinical breast exam.

MYTHMen do not get breast cancer, it only affects women. 

FACT:   On the contrary, each year about 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 410 will die. While this is a small percentage of cases, men should also do periodic breast self-exams and report any changes to their physicians.

MYTH:  A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.

FACT:   A mammogram, or x-ray of the breast, currently remains the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Breast compression while getting a mammogram cannot cause cancer to spread. The benefits of mammography far outweigh any potential dangers associated with radiation.

MYTH:  If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to get it, too.

FACT:   Most women who have breast cancer have no family history. Statistically, only about 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.

MYTH:  If the gene mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2 is detected in your DNA, you will definitely develop breast cancer.

FACT:   A woman who has inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 is about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman who does not have such a mutation. For people who discover they have the harmful mutation, there are various proactive measures that can be done to reduce risk, including hormonal therapy.

MYTH:  Breast cancer is contagious.

FACT:   You cannot catch breast cancer and you cannot transfer it from your body to another person.

MYTH:  Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.

FACT:   There is no conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

FACTS:   There are a number of public and private non-profit organizations that work hard to make accurate, reliable, and helpful information about breast cancer available to the public. Here are a few:

The American Cancer Society

National Breast Cancer Foundation

U.S. Center for Disease Control

Cancer Centers of America