October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this time, individuals and organizations will come together to educate, encourage, and inspire people to grow in their awareness of the problem and the ways in which they can support the breast cancer community.
In addition to raising awareness about the importance of self-checks and screenings, this month will be a time of introspection and commemoration for those who have been personally impacted by breast cancer.
[For] far too many people, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is also a painful reminder of the more than 44,000 U.S. women and men we will lose—almost entirely to metastatic disease—this year. It's a call to action to fund more research to save lives and improve outcomes. (Breast Cancer Research Foundation)
A good way to get involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to help address five myths about breast cancer and ensure they don't continue to hold power moving forward.
Myth 1: Antiperspirants, hair dyes, and cell phone use cause breast cancer.
Because people are rightly concerned about cancer rates, they're always looking for ways to reduce their risks. While this is a commendable mindset, we encourage people to focus on making changes that have been verifiably proven to reduce cancer risks, not ones based on myth. Unfortunately, focusing on the wrong things will not only waste your time and energy but will divert your focus from the choices that could actually make a difference.
Antiperspirants, hair dyes, and cell phone use are three of the common areas people hyperfocus on that have not been proven to increase risks for any type of breast cancer.
Take cell phone use, for example.
Because cell phones emit a type of radiation and are held close to the head and often carried (particularly by women) near the torso, people have been understandably concerned about the increased risks cell phones may pose to cancer growth. However, even after extensive studies, there are no other clearly established dangerous health effects on the human body from radiofrequency radiation.
Similar facts can be presented regarding antiperspirants and hair dyes. Though there are rightful causes for suspicion, there is no convincing evidence linking one or the other to increased cancer rates.
Myth 2: If I have the BRCA gene, I'll get breast cancer.
Though the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are helpful genes naturally inherited from our parents, some people are passed down harmful BRCA gene mutations that increase their risks of developing breast cancer.
In addition to keeping up with your scheduled mammogram and breast cancer screening schedule, if you have concerns about your family health history, particularly concerning breast cancer, it may be advisable for you to be tested for the BRCA gene.
If you are told the gene has been passed down to you, you may be rightly worried about your increased risks. But remember, these are just increased odds. The BRCA gene does not determine that you will develop breast cancer; only that your odds have increased.
If you have the BRCA gene, being vigilant about things like health, diet, mammograms, screenings, and things of that nature will help you have a better chance of catching early warning signs and addressing them with the help of your doctor.
Myth 3: Lumps are the only sign of breast cancer.
Women (and men) who find a breast lump are immediately worried that they might have cancer. But, in fact, most breast lumps develop due to other root causes. Conversely, those who conduct regular breast self-exams and never find a breast lump may think they're fine; however, there are other signs of breast cancer that they should watch out for.
Potential (non-lump) signs of breast cancer:
- Changes to the shape or feel of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling
- Breast pain
- Nipple discharge
- Pulling around the nipple
- Redness or flaky skin around the nipple
If you find a lump in your breast or armpit, by all means, do schedule an appointment to see a healthcare provider.
But please know that breast lumps aren't the only sign of breast cancer that should raise concerns.
Myth 4: Young women don't need to worry about breast cancer.
While it's true that risks for different types of breast cancer do rise with age, that doesn't mean young women don't need to be vigilant about checking their breasts for early warning signs.
Young women can and do get breast cancer. The earlier they can start treatment, the better they fare in the long run.
Myth 5: Only women get breast cancer.
Male breast cancer is a real and serious threat.
This year alone, it's estimated that here in the U.S., well over 2,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. While the five-year survival rate for male breast cancer is 97%, that is only true if the cancer is caught while it's still only in the breast. If the cancer is caught later and has spread to the other parts of the body (including the lymph nodes), the survival rate begins to drop.
Unfortunately, many men do not think about the possibility of breast cancer. Because of that, they do not conduct self-checks at the same rate women do, and they may not be aware enough of the symptoms to recognize them for what they are.
Hopefully, during events like Breast Cancer Awareness Month, men and women will both have increased opportunities to learn not only about the risks but also about the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment.
Contact the Women's Clinic servicing Jackson and Madison Mississippi
As reassuring as it can be to know some of the myths surrounding breast cancer aren't true, the fact of the matter is this: women and men are still being diagnosed with breast cancer every day. Fortunately, early treatment can lower the likelihood that it will spread and have a lasting impact on your life.
If you're concerned about these matters, we encourage you to be proactive and seek testing as soon as possible. If you have questions or concerns, or if you would like to talk about any other health needs, please feel free to contact us at The Women's Clinic. Schedule an appointment today!