Six Breast Cancer Myths Debunked
We’ve all heard the story in the news: a chemical in your plastic bottles is going to give you breast cancer, thus stop drinking out of plastic bottles. But did you know that those reports are based on assumptions and not on scientific evidence? It turns out that there are a lot of myths when it comes to breast cancer … and we tracked down the experts to help you understand what is and is not true.
Myth 1: Plastic Bottles Lead to an Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in plastic bottles and other containers. This can get into the foods and beverages we store in them. And since some laboratory findings have found that BPA can affect hormone levels in animals, it was feared that even minimal exposure could result in a higher risk for breast cancer. But don’t put down that bottle of water just yet – Susan G. Komen for the Cure tells us that to date there has been no evidence shown to suggest a link between BPA and breast cancer.
Myth 2: If I Find a Lump In My Breast, Then I Must Have Cancer
Wrong again. It’s important for all women to know that 80-85% of all breast lumps are benign – especially in women under 40. According to the National Institutes of Health, these lumps more often come from things like breast infections, fibrocystic breast disease and fibroadenoma – not cancer. But to be safe, it’s always wise to discuss changes in your breast tissue with your doctor.
Myth 3: Mammograms Are Painful
Sorry ladies, we can’t fully discount this. Our very own Patti Higginbotham, ANP, AOCN, a nurse practitioner with the Breast Health Center says whether or not a mammogram hurts depends on a variety of things – including things as variable as your individual pain tolerance, where you are in your menstrual cycle, the size of your breasts and even your age. Patti suggests minimizing those variables by scheduling your mammogram between days 5 and 10 of your menstrual cycle, limiting your caffeine intake for a couple of days before your appointment and taking Tylenol or Motrin one to two hours before you go in. But bottom line – what’s a little discomfort if it could save your life.
Myth 4: If I Don’t Have a Lump, Then I Should Be Good
Although a lump may indicate breast cancer, there are other signs that women should be on the lookout for, too. Breast swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction, redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin can all be signs of breast cancer. And remember: there’s always a chance that you won’t have any physical symptoms early on – but mammograms can still detect those early breast cancers before they have a chance to grow.
Myth 5: Miscarriages are Linked to a Greater Risk for Developing Breast Cancer
Good news for you: the National Cancer Institute performed a study in 2003 definitively concluding that miscarriage is not linked to an increased risk for breast cancer. Rest easy, ladies.
Myth 6: There isn’t Much I Can Do Besides Watch For Signs
False, false, false, false, FALSE! There is a lot women can do to actually lower their risk. Some tips are losing weight if you’re obese, getting regular exercise, lowering alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking. Of course, self-exams, clinical exams and timely mammograms aren’t going to hurt anything, either.
Of course always talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Original post date: April 2010. Revised July 2019.
These blogs were written by members of the CHI Health Cancer Care Team.