It's never been easier to find information about breast cancer, but it’s often hard to know what to believe. With the help of Jennifer Manders, MD, breast surgeon with The Christ Hospital Physicians, Healthspirations uncovers the myths about breast cancer risk factors, symptoms and more.
Myth: I don’t have to think about breast cancer until I’m 40.
Fact: Only 5 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women younger than age 40, but it can strike at any age. Because young women don’t believe breast cancer can happen at a young age, it’s often found when it’s more advanced.
Myth: It’s hard to detect breast cancer during a breast self-exam.
Fact: Most women can find a lump during a breast self-exam when they’re performed correctly. Monthly self-exams give you a better understanding of your breast tissue and what’s normal. It’s important to start early and stick to a monthly schedule.
- In your 20s, learn what changes to look for and start perfecting the self-exam technique. Your doctor will also start clinical breast exams during your yearly physical.
- In your 30s, pay attention to how your breast tissue changes, especially during and after pregnancy. Continue with monthly self-exams and talk to your doctor about your risk factors. Knowing your risk factors will help you determine when to get a baseline mammogram.
- In your 40s, think of your annual mammogram as another way of taking care of yourself.
- In your 50s and beyond, be disciplined about your exams.
Myth: Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family, so I don’t have to worry about it.
Fact: Family history is just one risk factor for breast cancer. Age, ethnicity and lifestyle may also play a role. About 75 percent of women who get breast cancer have no family history or known risk factors.
Myth: I had a negative mammogram; I don’t need another for a couple of years.
Fact: “Two years is a long time to wait to get screened,” says Dr. Manders. “A lot can happen to your body over the course of that time. If you wait until you feel or see something abnormal, you might have a more advanced cancer if diagnosed.”
Myth: Ultrasounds are just as effective as mammograms, without the unnecessary radiation.
Fact: “Ultrasounds are a great adjunct to mammograms in diagnostics and now are available as a screening tool for patients with extremely dense breasts. However, if ultrasound is used alone, it may miss microcalcifications (tiny flecks of calcium) that can indicate early forms of breast cancer,” Dr. Manders says.
Mammograms are the only test proven to detect microscopic cancers in the earliest, most-treatable stages.
Myth: I have breast cancer. I’m going to die.
Fact: When found in its earliest stages, breast cancer is up to 100 percent treatable. Even if you’re diagnosed in later stages, survival rates are as high as 80 percent.
“If you’re diagnosed, gather as much information as possible from trusted resources, like the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute, and stay as clear-headed as you can,” Dr. Manders recommends. “Find doctors you trust, and listen to their opinions. It’s OK to take some time to make decisions about treatment options.”
Women can also find support services and groups throughout Greater Cincinnati, including several at The Christ Hospital.
Learn more about breast cancer and the services offered at The Christ Hospital.