6 FAIRLY COMMON BREAST CANCER MYTHS
ALWAYS check with your Doctor especially if you are at high risk! MYTH: The radiation in mammograms is risky. FACT: The radiation risk is virtually nil—about what you’d get in two to three months of natural environmental exposure, according to the American College of Radiology. And the screening benefits of mammograms far outweigh any minuscule risks. The American Cancer Society’s guidelines suggest that every woman get a baseline mammogram at age 40, then annually thereafter. Exceptions include a woman at high risk, such as one who has a first-degree relative diagnosed before age 50. If you’re in doubt about whether you fall into this category, ask your M.D. But a test is not going to give you cancer! It may even save your life.MYTH: Bras and antiperspirants can cause breast cancer.FACT: This one’s been floating around the Internet for years! The theory is that antiperspirants and the underwire in bras block lymphatic drainage and sweat glands, causing toxins to accumulate. But bras, even tight ones, don’t interfere with drainage, and sweat is your body’s cooling system—not a mechanism for eliminating toxins, says Debbie Saslow, Ph.D., director of breast and gynecologic cancer at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. Not one study shows that either is a risk factor. So rest assured, you don’t have to forgo antiperspirant or an underwire bra to have your healthiest pair!MYTH: Women with fibrocystic breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.FACT: “Fibrocystic breasts can be lumpy, dense and painful, but there is no evidence linking them to cancer,” says Peter Pressman, M.D., professor of clinical surgery at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. “However, if you have them, it’s important to do self-exams so you learn to distinguish between your normal breast tissue and a potentially cancerous lump.” One friend who had breast cancer explained it to me this way: Normal Fibrocystic breast tissue feels like a bag of grapes; a tumor can feel like a seed or pebble. This is just a broad-strokes guideline, and if you ever feel anything out of the ordinary for you, see your ob/gyn right away.MYTH: Soy can reduce your risk for breast cancer.FACT: This is one’s a bit tricky. There’s some evidence that if you look only to soy for protein, you could actually raise your risk for breast cancer, according to Walter Willett, M.D., chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard Public School of Health. The jury is still out on how much soy is too much, so for now, keep your intake to two servings a day. And go for it in natural form—edamame, tofu or soy milk are all fine: There’s no way of knowing how much soy is in highly processed products like soy powders, so we say stay away from supplements. MYTH: When breast cancer is detected, it’s always in the form of a lump.FACT: Not so. “Fortunately, many breast cancers are detected on a mammogram, before a noticeable lump has had time to develop,” says Susan Love, M.D., a breast surgeon in Pacific Palisades, California. Other warning signs include a change in breast symmetry, thickening, swelling, dimpling, nipple discharge and even a rashlike skin inflammation. See your doctor right away if you notice any change in the texture, feeling or tightness of your breasts during those self-exams Dr. Pressman mentioned earlier. MYTH: If you do find a lump, it’s probably cancerous. FACT: Lumps are scary but they’re most often not cancer: Four out of five lumps felt in the breast are benign, says Alonzo Walker, M.D., director of the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Breast Care Center in Milwaukee. Harmless lumps can show up anytime, especially before and during your period (thank hormones). However, any lump that lingers after your period should be examined by an M.D. And remember: Breathe! It’s probably nothing to worry about.