13 Myths Around Breast Cancer

Women's Health
Reading Time: 6 minutes

“Good health is a crown on the head of a well person that only a sick person can see.” – Robin Sharma

Anecdotes

If you ever had the chance to come across a conversation about breast cancer in our society, there is a chance you might have heard one of following anecdotes.

“Mujha to nhn hosakta, mera family men kabhi kisi ko nhn hua”, the girl across the table would have said.

Or.

“Yeh to siraf aurtoun ka masla ha, men bata rahin hun, sub ka samna baat mat karna”, an old aunty who has tautkas for everything might have said.

Or.

“Allah reham karaya! Iska toh ilaaj nhn hota, woh Rasheeda ko hua tha, woh beechari toh chal busi”, the old aunty would have said at your brother’s shadi.

These are some of the myths you might have come across when hearing people talking about breast cancers. It reflects the dire need to educate and create self-awareness among people.

What’s breast cancer

If you are reading this, but don’t know what breast cancer is, here it’s: Breast cancer is a type of cancer in which cells of either breast grow/multiply out of control. There are different types of breast cancers depending upon the kinds of cells in the breasts that turn into cancer.

Treatment of breast cancer includes prevention via regular self-examination and screening to various types of therapies, and surgery once the cancer has been detected or diagnosed.

In any problem solving, it’s vital to first educate and inform ourselves about the problem so we can move toward the best possible solution. In the same way, to deal with a disease, it’s important to educate ourselves to better equip against the disease if we or our loved ones ever experienced it. And in that process, one of the things that involve is filtering out the information that’s not true and doesn’t serve us.

Statistics

About 90, 000 cases of breast cancer are reported in Pakistan and about 40, 000 people die of breast cancer every year, and it’s the most frequent type of cancer in women diagnosed with cancer. This means Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia, but an early diagnosis can save so many lives and make a difference.

The survival rate for those who are diagnosed at an early stage is 98% contrary to 27% of those whose cancer is detected at an advanced age. We can save lives. We can help ourselves and our loved ones.

The best way to prevent breast cancer is early detection, and one of the obstacles that exists against it are misconceptions and misinformed myths that exist among so many people.

Since, at Marham we’re committed to educate, inform and empower people to solve their health problems, let’s explore some of the common misinformed myths that exist in our society, and fact-check them to filter out the information that’s not true and doesn’t serve us and our loved ones.

1. Having breastfed my children, I cannot get breast cancer

Myth
I have breastfed my children, so I cannot breast cancer.

Fact
Statistics show that though breastfeeding does reduce the chance of a woman getting breast cancer, it doesn’t eliminate possibility completely.

2. All kinds of lumps are cancerous

Myth
Every type or form of lump that appears on or around breasts is cancerous.

Fact
Not true. Most lumps that upon examination turn out to be benign (usually not harmful) but even for having a lump, there should be complete checkup to ensure if it’s cancerous or not.

Breast lumps even if painless or benign must not be ignored, and you should immediately consult a doctor for a complete check-up.

3. Only women get breast cancer

Myth
Only women can get breast cancer, and men cannot.

Fact
Although breast cancer is rare in men, they are still liable to get it. The symptoms of breast cancer are the same in men as in women, and if men get any lump or anomaly in breast, they must get a complete check-up as well.

4. Breast cancer isn’t treatable

Myth
Breast cancer isn’t treatable.

Fact
It’s not true today. It might have been true about 3 decades ago but not today. It’s quite treatable and allows the patient to live a normal life after treatment. Although the treatment is tough and impacts patients psychologically, it improves prognosis and eventually the quality of life of patients.

5. Only women with a family history are at risk

Myth
I can’t get it since it doesn’t run in their family.

Fact
This isn’t true. Family history might play a role in the risk someone is at to have breast cancer but not necessarily. Not all types of breast cancers have a genetic (family) basis, and having a negative family history doesn’t ensure immunity from certain type of breast cancer.

6. Wearing underwired undergarment increases the risk

Myth
Wearing underwired undergarment for tight bras increases the risk of pr causes breast cancer.

Fact
Neither the type of tightness of bra has been linked to cause or increase the risk of breast cancer. An underwired bra isn’t recommended only for the reason that it might cause sleep discomfort due to blood flow disruption, and this isn’t limited to the just bra but anything you wear.

7. Birth control pills cause cancer

Myth
Birth control pills cause breast cancer.

Fact
No surprise here, since family planning is frowned upon, there are so many misconceptions related to it. According to research, birth control isn’t related to occurrence of breast cancer. It does have side effects with most common on added levels of estrogen in a woman’s body who’s using it.

8. Deodorants breast cancer

Myth
Deodorants cause breast cancer.

Fact
Do not skip your deodorants because of this myth, it’ll make life difficult for you. Rumour around this myth is that since antiperspirants prevent sweating so toxins aren’t released and accumulate in lymph nodes of armpits. But not all toxins are released through sweat and hence do not accumulate into lymph nodes.

Also, parabens (chemicals) are only found in some deodorants and not all. Therefore, no real connection can be made between the occurrence of breast cancer and deodorant.

9. Small breasts have a lower risk

Myth
Having relatively smaller sized breasts means a lower risk of breast cancer.

Fact
Breast size isn’t related to the chances of breast cancer. In women, breast cancer is developed in lobules – ducts, where milk is produced, are carried to nipples – which are the same in numbers in all women. Therefore, women with smaller bra size are at the same risk of breast cancer as those with the larger size.

10. Exposure to air can spread the cancer

Myth
Exposing myself to air will spread the cancer.

Fact
Patients diagnosed with breast cancer are sometimes skeptical about opening themselves or exposing their bodies to air thinking air exposure might cause spread (metastasis) of cancer. However, this isn’t true. Only surgery to remove tumor is what prevents the cancer from spreading.

11. Breast lumps always mean breast cancer

Myth
If there is a lump on or around the breast, it always is a sign of cancer.

Fact
Not all lumps around or on breasts mean cancer. Most lumps are due to benign tumours, they could also be small cysts or other complications needing immediate medical attention. It’s always best to consult a doctor whenever you feel lump around your breasts.

12. A mammogram can cause breast cancer

Myth
A mammogram can cause cancer to spread.

Fact
Mammogram or x-ray of breasts is still standard for early detection of breast cancer. Breast compression during mammogram can’t cause breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute: “The benefits of mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from radiation exposure. Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low.”

13. Having a healthy lifestyle and weight means no cancer

Myth
People diagnosed with breast cancer often display this confusion that they followed healthy style then how did they cancer?

Fact
There’s certainly evidence that leading a healthy life reduces the risk of breast cancer but doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of getting breast cancer.

It’s great to eat and drink healthy, and exercising regularly, but still important to get regular screenings, self-examination and pay attention to any unusual changes in your breasts.

Solution

Though the risk of breast cancer can’t be completed eliminated completely, but it certainly can be reduced with a healthy lifestyle and active physical life as well as regular screenings and self-examination.

If you or your loved one is feeling a lump or any unusual change in the breast, it’s best to talk to a gynaecologist who listens to you unconditionally and prioritizes you and your problems as well guides you through self-examination and screening, via video consultation or direct appointment.


Next time, if you come across such misinformed myths, you’ll be better equipped to filter out the false information.

Until we value ourselves, we won’t value our health. Until we value our health, we will not do anything with it. Want to do something for your health? Start with regular self-examination, and screening to fight breast cancer.

Also:

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Might be, you are feeling an unusual change in the breast (regardless of it’s cancerous or not).

Maybe, you are just waiting for your reports to come for diagnosis or going to have the next therapy session or surgery.

We are here to tell you: you’ll be alright. You have all the courage and strength in you, you are much more than you appear to be. You’re brave, and you’ll fight through it, and come stronger, healthier and happier on the other side! Peace.

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