The American Cancer Society estimates in the year 2000 about 182,800 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the United States. Early detection and innovative treatment options are now making it possible for many more women to live healthy, cancer-free lives. Despite this progress, approximately 41,200 deaths will occur from the disease this year, 400 of them will be men.
Fear and confusion are at the heart of the myths about breast cancer. No woman needs to stand alone when it comes to understanding breast cancer. It's important to know the facts to help yourself and others who are facing this disease. These are some of the most common myths and the truth about breast cancer.
Myth 1: Women with no family history of breast cancer are not at risk.
Reality: The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no close relatives with this disease. Regardless of family history, discuss mammography guidelines and schedule regular screenings with your health provider.
Myth 2: Breast cancer has become an epidemic in young women.
Reality: Although all women are at risk for breast cancer, 95 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women ages 40 and over; and more than three quarters occur among women over 50.
Myth 3: Underarm antiperspirants and underwire bras cause breast cancer.
Reality: This rumor has been spread rapidly by e-mail. There is no evidence or studies which indicate that using antiperspirants or wearing any type of bra increases the risk of, much less causes, breast cancer. In fact, the biggest factors for breast cancer are being a woman and growing older.
Myth 4: Breast cancer kills more women than any other disease.
Reality: More American women die of heart disease and lung cancer.
Myth 5: Mammograms are unsafe and painful.
Reality: With today's modern technology, radiation levels are low and not harmful. Modern mammography equipment is designed to minimize the degree of discomfort. Since breasts can be tender just before or after menstruation, women may prefer to schedule a mammogram at a different time.
Myth 6: If a mammogram result comes back normal, there's nothing to worry about until the next scheduled test.
Reality: Mammography is the best technology to detect cancer early. The American Cancer Society recommends women also receive a breast examination by a health professional and perform breast self-examination monthly. This combination will provide the best chance to find cancer at its earliest stages.
Myth 7: If a lump is cancerous, mastectomy is the only option.
Reality: At one time, mastectomy was standard therapy, but now many women have more than one choice. The combination of lumpectomy and radiation is performed more commonly. And the many treatment options are helping women live healthy, cancer-free lives.
Myth 8: Breast cancer is not a threat to women under 40.
Reality: All women are at risk for breast cancer, even though 95 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women over 40. The best way to keep breast cancer from becoming life-threatening is to follow the American Cancer Society's guidelines for annual mammograms starting at age 40, and breast exams by a health care professional as well as monthly self-exams starting at age 20. You can receive additional breast health and cancer information by calling the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or by visiting www.cancer.org.
The American Cancer Society