This time of year, an explosion of pink takes over as we recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout the month of October, additional efforts are put into place to help raise awareness surrounding breast cancer and the importance of early detection, and in many ways, they are paying off drastically. Some areas have seen survival rates triple over the years. Still, there are plenty of misconceptions surrounding breast cancer, its causes, and risk factors. Below are some of the more common myths that you may have already heard, along with the facts that dispel them.
Myth 1: A Lump Means Breast Cancer
Finding a lump in your breast can be frightening, and it is certainly a situation that requires the attention of a physician and a clinical breast exam. Still, it is not a definitive sign of breast cancer. In fact, there are many reasons that may cause a palpable lump in a self-breast exam. These can include cysts, fibrous breast tissue, injury or trauma to the area, lipoma, or in the case of breast-feeding mothers, mastitis.
Myth 2: Breast Cancer Doesn’t Affect Men
While the vast majority of breast cancer cases occur in women, men too can develop the disease. Roughly 2,000 cases of male breast cancer will be diagnosed each year. Unfortunately, for these patients, the mortality rate tends to be higher than that of women. This is thought to be largely due to lack of awareness among men and a higher likelihood to disregard a lump in the area.
Myth 3: A Family History of Breast Cancer Means You Will Likely Have it Too
Family history is a risk factor that places patients at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. However, this does not mean that having the disease is a certainty. In fact, only about 10 percent of all diagnosed cases come from those who have a family history. Still, patients who have a history of breast cancer in their family should let their physician know, as early screenings may be needed.
Myth 4: The Aluminum in Antiperspirant Will Cause Breast Cancer
It is a long-standing rumor that the ingredients in antiperspirants, particularly aluminum, are major contributors to breast cancer. However, research directly contradicts this, with a large 2002 study revealing no connection between the two. Additional studies have also concluded that minimal amounts of aluminum are absorbed into the body and that there is no significant difference in the levels of aluminum found in the breast tissue of those with cancer versus those without.
It is important to understand the signs and risk factors surrounding breast cancer. After all, these are an important part of early detection and survival. However, it is also important to understand that there are many myths surrounding the disease and to keep a realistic view of it. Chances are, your antiperspirant isn’t going to lead to breast cancer, and that lump that you felt is likely not as dangerous as you imagine. Keep up with annual wellness visits, conduct monthly self-breast checks, and when a question or problem arises, contact your physician.