Breast Cancer Myths
Myth: Having fibrocystic disease increases your risk of breast cancer.*
Fibrocystic disease is a general term for any benign process in the breast and does not increase the risk of breast cancer.1
Myth: Coffee increases your risk of breast cancer.
Coffee was once thought to increase the symptoms of fibrocystic disease. This was found not to be true and, in rats, coffee prevents breast cancer.1
Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk.
80% of women who develop breast cancer have no family history, although women who have a family history of breast cancer are at increased risk. 1
Myth: Mammography is 100% accurate in early breast cancer detection.
Mammography is a very important tool for detecting breast cancer early, however, it is not 100% accurate. Any woman who has a lump and has a normal mammogram still needs to have it checked out.1
Myth: Older women don't have to worry about breast cancer.
The older you are, the higher your risk of breast cancer. So all women need to worry about breast cancer.1
Myth: Women younger under 40 years of age don't get breast cancer.
Breast cancer can affect women of all ages, although the risk is lower for women under 40. However, if you feel a lump in your breast and it persists for more than one menstrual cycle, you should be agressive in having it evaluated by your doctor.2
Myth: A diagnosis of breast cancer is an emergency.
Most breast cancers have been present for eight to ten years by the time you can feel a lump, and so there certainly is time for you to get a second opinion, to read, and to fully explore the options.1
Myth: A mastectomy ensures that the cancer is gone forever.
Mastecomy will remove the breast, however, it will not guarantee that the cancer will not recur. Eight to ten percent of women will have a recurrence in the scar after a mastectomy and there is also the possibility of metastases. Lumpectomy and radiation can be as effective as mastectomy in preventing breast cancer from returning.1
Myth: A breast cancer diagnosis is a death sentence.
Most early breast cancer can be effectively treated with standard treatments. Even women who are not cured of breast cancer can certainly add three to five disease-free years to their lives.1
Myth: Only women get breast cancer.
Men are also able to get breast cancer and, in fact, there are 1400 cases every year of breast cancer in men in this country.1 [See American Cancer Society for more statistics]
Myth: Abortion causes breast cancer.
There are no definitive studies linking abortion and breast cancer.3
* Some health professionals do not agree with Dr. Love on this issue.
1 Love, Susan, with Karen Lindsey. Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995.
2 Feminist Majority Foundation Medical Director, 2001.
3 Harris, Jay, MD; Marc Lippman, MD; Monica Morrow, MD; and C. Kent Osborne, MD. Diseases of the Breast. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000. p 181.