10 Greatest Myths About Breast Cancer

reconstruction-after-breast-cancerWhat Every Woman Needs To Know To Protect Her Health
Early detection is the best protection. Breast cancer found early can usually be treated successfully.

Myth 1: Young women don't get breast cancer

  • Breast cancer can occur at any age
  • Risk increases with age
  • 1 out of 2,212 breast cancer diagnoses will be a 30-year-old woman
A woman's chance of breast cancer Increases with age:
  • By age 30 - 1 out of 2,212
  • By age 40 - 1 out of 235
  • By age 50 - 1 out of 54
  • By age 60 - 1 out of 23
  • By age 70 - 1 out of 14
  • By age 80 - 1 out of 10
  • Ever -1 out of 8

Myth 2: A negative mammogram means you don't have breast cancer

  • 10 - 15% of breast cancers are missed on mammography
  • Some lumps can only be felt and not seen on mammography because of the density of the lump
  • 26% of cancers detected last year were found on mammography as calcifications


  • A mammogram needs to be coupled with a yearly clinical breast exam and a monthly breast self-exam
  • A clinical exam may find changes in the breast that would require additional evaluation with other screening tests such as ultrasound or dedicated breast MRI

Myth 3: Finding a lump is the only way a woman can detect breast cancer

  • Some cancers don’t form a lump
  • A visual exam of the breasts can often show symptoms that need to be reported to a healthcare provider

Other symptoms include:

  • Discharge from one breast
  • Inversion of a normally everted nipple
  • Dimpling-a pulling in of the breast skin
  • Bulge-area of raised tissues on one breast
  • Itching, irritated or scaly nipple with/without discharge
  • Rapidly increasing pain with redness or rash
  • Rapid increase in size of one breast
  • Changes in the shape of a breast
  • Change in vein patterns on one breast

Myth 4: No history of breast cancer in your family means you never have to worry about having it

  • All women are at risk
  • Last year, 76% of women diagnosed with breast cancer had no family history of breast cancer
  • The greatest risk is being female

Myth 5: A mother's family history of breast cancer is the only important history

  • A father’s history is equally important
  • Hereditary breast cancer is caused by inheriting a mutated gene from either your father or mother
  • History needs to include the previous two generations because hereditary breast cancer can skip a generation

Myth 6: The most important risk factor is the number of relatives who have had breast cancer

  • Age of occurrence is more important than the number of relatives diagnosed
  • Early age of diagnosis is a red flag for hereditary breast cancer
  • Equally important is a family history of ovarian cancer or having bilateral cancer (both breasts)
  • A relative having both breast and ovarian cancer is highly suspicious for hereditary breast cancer

Myth 7: Breast cancer should be removed immediately before it spreads

  • Most cancers 1 cm in size have been in the breast for 8 - 10 years when detected
  • Breast cancer starts when one cell becomes malignant and begins a doubling process that continues until it reaches a size that can be detected by breast exam or on a mammogram
  • Doubling process ranges from 29 to 220 days
  • Breast cancer is not usually a medical emergency, with the exception of inflammatory breast cancer

Myth 8: All breast cancer patients receive the same treatment

  • There are 15 different types of breast cancer
  • Each type can vary greatly in aggressiveness of growth
  • There is no longer a cookie-cutter approach to treatment as there was years ago
  • Every woman’s cancer is uniquely unique
  • Treatments are designed from careful study of:
    • Tumor type
    • Size
    • Spread of cancer to other sites
    • Individual characteristics of cancer
    • Age and general health
  • Surgery
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy


  • Lumpectomy
  • Mastectomy - With or without reconstruction
Radiation Therapy
Adjuvant Therapy
  • Chemotherapy
    • Neoadjuvant
    • Post-surgical
  • Hormonal therapy

Myth 9: Breast cancer is the number one enemy of women

  • The number one enemy is NOT breast cancer but the late detection of breast cancer
  • Breast cancer detected early can usually be treated successfully

Myth 10: High risk women can't do anything about their risks

  • High risk women because of family history or an identified carrier of the breast cancer gene can do something about their risks
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Exercise
  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet
  • Get a mammogram on a recommended schedule
  • Have clinical exams regularly
  • Ask your physician about talking with a genetic counselor
Genetic Testing: Who Should Be Tested?
  • Individuals with a personal or family history of breast cancer before age 50 or ovarian cancer at any age
  • Individuals with two or more primary diagnoses of breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent with a personal or family history of breast cancer before age 50 or ovarian cancer at any age
  • Male breast cancer patients

BRCA1 or BRCA2 Testing

  • For genetic testing, a blood sample is drawn and sent to a lab to see if an inherited, mutated gene (BRCA1 or BRCA2) is present DNA is present in all body cells
  • Test person with cancer first if possible
  • The mutated gene can come from the mother or father
How are people tested?
  • Blood test - DNA in every cell in body
  • Test person with cancer first if possible - Testing of relatives to determine if they carry gene if person with cancer test positive
Women who test positive for hereditary breast cancer are offered:
  • High risk surveillance
  • Chemoprevention
  • Prophylactic surgery

High Risk Surveillance

  • Monthly breast self-exams starting at age 18 to 21 and annual or semiannual clinical breast exams, beginning between ages 25 to 35
  • Yearly mammography or dedicated breast MRI beginning between ages 25 to 35
  • Annual or semiannual transvaginal ultrasound and testing for CA-125 to detect ovarian cancer beginning between the ages of 25 to 35
  • Drugs such as Tamoxifen may significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in women with BRCA mutations
  • Oral contraceptives have been associated with up to a 60% reduction in the risk of ovarian cancer in women with BRCA mutations when taken for six or more years
Prophylactic Surgery
  • Prophylactic mastectomy reduces the risk of breast cancer by at least 90% in women with BRCA mutations
  • Prophylactic oophorectomy reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 96% and simultaneously reduces the risk of breast cancer by approximately 50 percent in women with BRCA mutations
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