Myths About Breast Cancer
According to statistics, breast cancer is the top cancer killer for women in Singapore, accounting for almost 30% of cancer cases in women. In recent years, much has been done to step up the awareness on the disease. However there are still misconceptions and lack of knowledge on breast cancer amongst the general public. Below are some of the more common myths about breast cancer that need clarifications.
I have no family history of breast cancer, so I'm not at risk.
Although the risk of breast cancer increases if there is occurrence among first degree family members, only about 5-10% of breast cancer cases are attributed to hereditary reasons. Breast cancer is mostly unpredictable and is caused by random mutations of the genes. Hence, it can happen to anyone.
I'm only in my early 30s, I'm too young to get cancer.
While it is true that the risk of breast cancer increases with age, about 13% of breast cancer patients are below 40 years old in Singapore. Hence, regular breast self-examination is necessary. Do look out for symptoms such as lumps, changes in the appearance of your breasts or any discharge from the nipples. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
I am afraid of developing breast cancer as I always use deodorants and antiperspirants.
Some people believe that the chemicals in deodorants may cause breast cancer if applied accidentally to an open wound. However there has been no scientific evidence to prove the claim. Breast cancer is a result of many factors that come into play such as genes, lifestyle, immune system and the environment.
If the breast lump is painful, it’s not cancerous.
While it is true that cancerous lumps are generally painless in the early stage, it is a very inaccurate way of determining if a lump is cancerous. Breast lumps, if discovered, should always be thoroughly examined by the doctor.
I heard that radiation from mammogram can cause cancer.
The amount of radiation in mammogram screening is very low and safety levels are well established. Hence the benefits of doing the mammogram far outweigh the risks imposed.
I’m safe and do not need to do any more self-exams since my mammogram results are normal
It is great news when mammogram results are normal. However, mammogram is a diagnostic tool and not a preventive one. This does not mean you are safe for life. Be vigilant and do regular checks. Go back to the doctor if a lump is discovered, even if you have just done your mammogram.
If I get breast cancer, mastectomy is the only way to go.
Again, the key is early detection. During the early stages, the cancer cells are localised and have not spread to other parts of the breast. Hence it is possible to remove only the cancerous area and preserve the rest of the breast.
Breast cancer only occurs in women.
This is perhaps the greatest misconception of all. Though rare, it is absolutely possible for men to get breast cancer as they also have breast tissue. The symptoms manifested will be similar to that in women.
If I’m diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s a death sentence.
Breast cancer treatment has improved tremendously over the years. The key to successful treatment is early detection. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the outcome. In fact the 5 year survival rate can be more than 90% through surgery during the earliest stage. Hence, always perform regular self-examination of your breasts. If you are above 50 years old, have mammogram screening done every two years through your doctor.