While millions of people are breast cancer survivors, it remains the most common cancer affecting women. Regardless of the high survival rate of breast cancer, as a breast specialist, I often hear misconceptions or myths about the disease from patients. It’s important to have the facts and dispel common myths surrounding breast cancer.
Myth No.1: You’ll only get breast cancer if you have a family history.
Breast cancer cannot be inherited, but a higher risk of developing it can be inherited through gene mutations. Only 5-10 percent of cancers are from inherited gene mutations, and about 80 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease. If you have a strong family history of cancer, genetic testing can identify your risk for certain types of cancer, including breast and ovarian. The testing provides information and the opportunity not only to reduce the risk of cancer, but also to save lives. Detecting cancer early is one of the most important things people can do to protect their health and significantly increase the chances of successful outcomes.
Myth No. 2: If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you must have your breasts removed.
A breast cancer diagnosis does not automatically result in a mastectomy. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer will need some form of surgery as part of their treatment, but it will vary with each case. Some women need removal of a small piece of breast tissue (lumpectomy), while others will need one or both breasts removed, and possibly lymph nodes. The type and stage of the cancer will impact the need for a mastectomy. Your breast surgeon and you will determine what type of surgery is best.
Myth No. 3: Lumps in your breasts means you have breast cancer.
Actually, there are many conditions that may cause breast lumps, and for women under 30, lumps are typically benign. Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to other less known symptoms of breast cancer, including change in breast size, shape, or color; nipple color change, retraction, irritation, or discharge; dimpled skin near the breast, an underarm lump, or isolated pain. If you experience any unusual pain or change in your breast, you should consult with a physician. While these are symptoms of breast cancer, changes in your breasts can also indicate other non-cancerous conditions. If you need to further investigate, Texas Breast Specialists physicians specialize in treating both cancerous and noncancerous breast issues.
Myth No. 4: Breast cancer only affects women.
Breast cancer is more common in women; however, men can also be diagnosed. About one in 800 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime. In 2018, there will be an estimated 2,550 new cases of invasive male breast cancer, and an estimated 480 men will die from the disease in the United States.
Breast cancer can have a huge impact on the lives of those diagnosed and their families, but with regular screenings and advanced technology and treatments, more people than ever are surviving this disease.
Nurul Wahid, M.D., is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–McAllen, 1901 South 2nd Street in McAllen, Texas. For more information, visit TexasOncology.com or call 956-687-5150.