Don’t Believe These 7 Breast Cancer Myths
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so it’s a great time to dispel some of the most common myths about this disease.
1 - A lump in my breast means cancer, and I’m going to die
Many lumps in the breast are benign (not cancerous). They could be cysts, fibroadenoma, or pre-cancerous conditions that need treatment.
Years ago when there were fewer screenings and fewer treatment alternatives, breast cancer too often became fatal. But now, with screening mammograms, monthly self exams and annual clinical exams, we’re catching breast cancer in its earlier stages, before it can spread or metastasize. In these earlier stages, treatment is most effective. And treatments have come a long way, too. Currently, if caught early, up to 98 percent of women survive at least five years – a very good rate!
2 - Treatment always means mastectomy and painful chemo/radiation
Just as screenings have come a long way, so have treatments. Before 1990, mastectomy (removal of the breast) was the main way to treat breast cancer. Today mastectomy is no longer the only “tool.” Surgical interventions have become smaller and smaller. Sometimes a lumpectomy is enough. And while chemotherapy and radiation still have their place, some cancers respond well to hormonal therapies, such as tamoxifen.
3 - Debilitating nausea and baldness are inevitable with chemo
In the last decade, we’ve developed medicines that can be very effective against the nausea that may accompany chemotherapy. And while hair loss still often occurs, at Gwinnett Medical Center, our cancer support services include Look Good…Feel Better® sessions held in cooperation with the American Cancer Society, an appearance specialist, and free wigs from the American Cancer Society Wig Bank.
4 - Herbal remedies or various dietary supplements can treat breast cancer
No herbal remedy, dietary supplement or alternative therapy has been scientifically proven to treat breast cancer. In addition, no studies have been done to evaluate whether these supplements have their own side effects or interact with the pharmaceutical treatments a cancer patient may be receiving. It is best to check with your oncologist before adding anything extra to your treatment plan.
5 - If I eat right and exercise, I’ll be immune from cancer
While studies show that diet and exercise may play a role in keeping you healthy – including lowering your risk of certain cancers – there is no magic formula. No single food or vitamin has been shown to prevent breast cancer, or to cause breast cancer. As with preventing any disease, it’s best to eat a healthy, balanced diet with a wide variety of nutrients.
6 - My mother didn’t have breast cancer, so I’m not at risk
While it’s important to know if you mother, sister, aunt, grandmother or other female relatives had breast cancer, eighty percent or more of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Even if no one in your family has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, be sure to do self exams, have an annual clinical exam, and, beginning at age 40, have an annual mammogram.
7 - I’m too young to be worried about breast cancer (Or the parallel myth: Men don’t get breast cancer)
Breast tissue is present at any age, in either gender. And breast cancer can affect men as well as women. While the disease is most common in post-menopausal women, about one out of every four women with breast cancer is younger than age 50. For men or women, of any age, if you feel a lump, have it checked out.
The Cancer Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center offers the area’s top oncologists, radiologists and cancer treatment experts. We offer a full range of advanced, comprehensive cancer-fighting services including genetic testing.
But we don’t just treat cancer – we treat the individual, with services like patient navigators, onocolgy rehabilitation, survivorship support and more. Explore all we have to offer at gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/cancer.