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Six Breast Cancer Myths Busted

David Mittleman

As Breast Cancer Awareness month winds down, I thought that I would write once more about breast health. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the questions that you should ask your doctor after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. However, prevention is just as key, so today I’m writing about breast cancer myths—from supposed ways you can “cause” breast cancer to the “risk” associated with getting a mammogram.

  • 1. The radiation in mammograms is risky. The radiation associated with getting a mammogram is minimal—about equal to what you would naturally get from the environment in 2-3 months. Plus, the benefits of getting a mammogram far outweigh the negatives—it could save your life!
  • 2. Bras and antiperspirants cause cancer. This rumor has been floating around for years, but it’s not true. The theory behind the myth is that tight bras or deodorant interfere with lymphatic drainage and the sweat glands, causing toxins to accumulate. But bras can’t interfere with your lymphatic system and sweat isn’t a method of detoxifying—it’s to help you cool down.
  • 3. Women with fibrocystic breasts are more likely to get cancer. Fibrocystic breasts can be lumpy, dense, and painful, but that doesn’t mean that they’re more likely to get cancer. Become familiar with your breast lumps by doing monthly self-exams. That way, you’ll know when something feels different than normal. If you’re unsure, see your doctor for an exam.
  • 4. Soy reduces your risk of breast cancer. There is conflicting evidence about soy. There are some studies that suggest that eating too much soy protein increases the risk of cancer, but these results aren’t conclusive. For now, limit your soy intake to 2-3 servings a day, and eat it in its most natural form: soy milk, tofu, or edamame.
  • 5. Breast cancer is always in the form of a lump. Not so–other warning signs include a change in breast symmetry, thickening, swelling, dimpling, nipple discharge and even a rash-like skin inflammation. See your doctor right away if you notice any change in the texture, feeling or tightness of your breasts during self-exams.
  • 6. If you do find a lump, it’s probably cancerous. True, lumps are scary, but four out of five aren’t cancerous. Often, they are hormonally-related and will come and go with the menstrual cycle. However, any lump that lingers after your period should be checked by your doctor.

While this month happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s also important to remember that breast health is important year-round, not just in the month of October.


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