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Oct. 3, 2022

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10 myths about breast cancer

The Columbian

Myth 1:

If you have a lump in your breast, you have cancer.

There are a lot of things that can cause a lump in your breast that have nothing to do with cancer. About 80 percent of lumps are actually due to noncancerous things like cysts. Fibrocystic breast tissue — naturally lumpy breasts — is fairly common. That said, if you detect a new lump or anything unusual, it’s always a good idea to consult a doctor. Breast cancer survival rates are very good when the disease is detected early.

Myth 2:

All women have a 1-in-8 chance of developing breast cancer.

The risk level depends on age and several other factors. From age 30 to 39, the risk level is 1-in-227; from 40 to 49, the risk level is 1-in-68; from 50 to 59, the risk level is 1-in-42; from 60 to 69, the risk level is 1-in-28. That risk level rises to 1-in-8 by age 85.

Myth 3:

If you have the gene mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2 in your DNA, you will definitely get breast cancer.

Not every person — not even every woman — with the mutation gets cancer, but those with it are about five times more likely to get breast or ovarian cancer. The mutation does run in families, but not every member of a family has it. For those who do have the mutation, there are several preventative measures that can reduce the risk, including hormone therapy or surgery.

Myth 4:

Mammograms increase the risk of breast cancer because they use radiation.

Mammograms do use a small amount of radiation, but it’s negligible when compared with the preventative benefits. Mammograms can detect lumps well before you can physically feel them. The American Cancer Society recommends women age 40 and older get a screening every one or two years.

Myth 5:

After heart disease, breast cancer is the leading killer of women in the United States.

Heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease each kill more women annually than breast cancer does. Breast cancer kills about 40,000 women a year in the United States.

Myth 6:

You have better odds of survival if you remove the entire breast, rather than just getting a lumpectomy with radiation therapy.

Survival rates are about the same for both, although in some instances, a lumpectomy isn’t a good option. People with certain gene mutations or large tumors may benefit from removing the whole breast.

Myth 7:

Specific types of bras, or bras in general, can cause breast cancer.

Claims that underwire bras compress the lymph system in the breast, creating toxic buildup that can lead to cancer, have been widely disproved in scientific studies. The tightness of your clothing has nothing to do with breast cancer risk.

Myth 8:

Men don’t get breast cancer.

Every year, about 2,190 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Of those, about 410 will die, mostly because the disease is often detected in later stages. Men can also benefit from breast self-examination. Male breast cancer is usually detected as a hard lump under the nipple area.

Myth 9:

Only people with a family history of breast cancer need to worry about it.

About 70 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer have no risk factors. In families, your odds of getting breast cancer are about double those of the general population if your parent, sibling or child has breast cancer.

Myth 10:

Breast cancer is preventable.

Good fortune in your family history and genetics may decrease your risk factors, but there are no prevention techniques that guarantee you won’t get the disease. Some ways to lower overall risk include limiting alcohol consumption, weight loss, mammograms and exercise.

Data compiled online, including at,, and

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