Breast Cancer Myths & Facts
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about this serious threat to women’s health, ways to diagnose and treat it, and what can be done to help prevent breast cancer.
In 2020, an estimated 2.3 million women around the globe were diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 women died from the disease. In the United States, an estimated 281,550 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, and 43,600 women will die from it. Nearly 15 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States are cases of female breast cancer.
Breast cancer is clearly a major health concern, but, in spite of breast cancer awareness campaigns, many myths and misunderstandings about breast cancer abound.
As part of our commitment to nurturing healthy babies and growing healthy families, Childbirth Graphics is dedicated to women’s health issues, including breast cancer awareness. That’s why we offer a full line of women’s health education materials and models from our sister company, Health Edco®. These teaching tools present the facts about breast cancer and breast health. Read on to learn the facts behind five common breast cancer myths and misconceptions, and discover just a few of our women’s health education resources dedicated to breast health education and awareness.
Myth No. 1: Breast cancer awareness and breast self-Awareness are the same thing.
Although the names are similar, breast cancer awareness and breast self-awareness are not actually the same thing. They are closely related, however.
Breast cancer awareness focuses on raising community, national, and international awareness about breast cancer, what it is, the overall scope of the problem, and how to combat it through early detection and treatment. Key to breast cancer awareness is raising funds for breast cancer research to find better treatments.
Breast self-awareness, by contrast, is focused on an individual woman’s awareness of her own breast health. Breast self-awareness simply means that a woman becomes familiar with the normal look and feel of her breasts so that she can report any changes she notices to her healthcare professional. Being breast self-aware—along with having regularly scheduled clinical exams with a healthcare professional and mammograms—can help find breast cancer early, when treatment may be more successful.
non-palpable as well as palpable lumps.
Breast self-exam (BSE) models—lifelike, palpable breast models—can play an important role in breast self-awareness by helping women become familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts. Health Edco has long been known for its line of realistic BSE models made of lifelike BIOLIKE™ synthetic material. Our BSE models contain palpable lumps, highlighting the importance of BSE for breast self-awareness, and non-palpable lumps, underscoring the importance of mammography in early detection.
Myth No. 2: Breast cancer is always first found as a lump.
Although breast cancer often appears as a painless lump or thickening in the breast, breast cancer can present in many different ways. A woman should report any changes she detects in the look or feel of her breasts to her healthcare professional, including:
- A lump or thickening in the breast
- A nipple that has turned inward
- Thickening, dimpling, discoloration, or bruising of the skin of the breast
- A change in the size or shape of one breast
- Redness or scaliness of the nipple or skin of the breast
- Unusual discharge from the nipple
- Breast or nipple pain that does not go away
Even though a breast lump may be a sign of cancer, the majority of breast lumps are not cancer and may result from benign conditions, such as fibrocystic changes or fibroadenoma.
the role of mammograms in early breast cancer detection.
In its earliest stages, breast cancer may not cause lumps or any recognizable symptoms. For this reason, regular, routine mammograms are recommended because they can be used to look for changes in the breast and find breast cancer up to several years before it can be felt.
Myth No. 3: Routine mammograms prevent a woman from getting breast cancer.
In spite of widespread awareness of the importance of mammograms, many people misunderstand the role of mammography in the fight against breast cancer.
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that uses a very low dose of radiation. During a mammogram, each breast is compressed between two plates while X-rays are taken from different angles.
A screening test is used to look for abnormalities or signs of disease in people who don’t have any symptoms. Mammography is the most common test used to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer; mammograms are a screening test that looks for signs that cancer may already be present in a breast. If a screening mammogram detects a possible sign of breast cancer, additional tests, such as diagnostic mammograms, may be performed.
important difference BSE and mammography can make.
Even though routine mammograms do not prevent breast cancer, they increase the likelihood that a breast cancer can be caught in its earliest stages before it spreads in the body. Cancer caught in its earlier stages may be more likely to be treated successfully.
Myth No. 4: Only women get breast cancer.
Although breast cancer occurs far less frequently in men than in woman, men can develop breast cancer. It is estimated that about 1 in every 100 cases of breast cancer cases in the United States is diagnosed in a man. In 2021, it is estimated that 2,650 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 530 men will die from the disease. Factors that increase the likelihood of developing male breast cancer include previous radiation exposure to the chest, use of estrogen, family history of breast cancer, inherited gene mutations, liver disease, and obesity.
Myth No. 5: There’s nothing a woman can do to reduce her risk for breast cancer.
Many women believe that they can do little to reduce their risk for breast cancer. It is true that many of the factors that increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer are out of her control. Simply being a woman is one of the greatest risk factors. Other risk factors outside of a woman’s control include being over the age of 50, having a personal history of breast cancer, having a history of radiation therapy, having a family history of breast cancer, having a genetic predisposition for developing breast cancer, and beginning menstruation before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55.
of breast health and breast self-awareness.
However, there are important steps a woman can take to reduce her risk of breast cancer no matter what her non-controllable risk factors are. These factors include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Women who gain excess weight during adulthood, especially after menopause, increase their risk for breast cancer.
- Being physically active: Physical activity reduces a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Even occasional physical activity can reduce the risk. Regular physical activity also helps a woman maintain a healthy weight.
- Understanding the risks of alcohol: Research suggests that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk for breast cancer. Women who drink should talk to their healthcare professional about how alcohol may increase their risk for breast cancer.
Discover More Women’s Breast Health Education Materials & Models
From our sister company Health Edco, Childbirth Graphics offers a wide range of breast health education displays, materials, and breast self-exam models that are perfect for raising breast cancer awareness and promoting breast self-awareness. Learn more by visiting our product section dedicated to women’s health education materials and models.
The information contained in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.
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