During October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women are reminded about the importance of identifying the signs of breast cancer, having yearly exams and scheduling annual mammograms after age 40. Breast cancer will affect one in eight women, so you need to understand your risk factors and pay attention to your breast health.
Women often receive inaccurate information about breast cancer. Separating fact from fiction will help you protect your breast health and overall wellbeing:
Myth: Breast lumps are usually cancerous.
Truth: Actually, 80 percent of lumps or breast changes are benign. Because early detection is critical to survival, let your physician know if you detect or notice anything unusual.
Myth: Only women with a family history are at risk.
Truth: Approximately 70 percent of breast cancer patients have no identifiable risk factors. If your parent, sibling or child has developed the disease, your risk for breast cancer is roughly double that of the average person.
Myth: Women with smaller breasts have less risk of breast cancer.
Truth: No connection has been established between breast size and the risk for breast cancer. Breast size, however, can make mammograms and exams more difficult, but all women need regular screenings.
Myth: Breast cancer always presents with lumps.
Truth: Although a lump may indicate breast cancer, other signs can also cause a need for more evaluation. If you notice swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain, recent nipple retraction or inversion (pointing inward), redness or any discharge, report these symptoms to your doctor right away.
Myth: A negative mammogram report means you don’t need to worry about breast cancer.
Truth: Although an important tool in detection, mammograms fail to find 10 to 20 percent of cancers. Yearly clinical exams and breast self-exams (BSEs) are other critical components in the screening process, so don’t neglect these steps.