Dr Shivali Ahlawat, MD, DNB Pathology, Lab Director- Oncquest Laboratories (National Reference Lab), Gurugram
1 in 29 Indian women is likely to contract breast cancer during her lifetime as per the National Cancer Registry program. Moreover, women who live in urban areas are even more likely to contract this dreaded disease. However, unless people have experienced breast cancer in their own lives or they’ve had to care for someone close who has, they may find it difficult to separate the facts from myths.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s try to draw the line between facts and myths and make it easier to identify, diagnose, and treat breast cancer at the soonest. Here are some of the most common myths regarding breast cancer and the actual facts that debunk them.
MYTH: I won’t get breast cancer if I don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
FACT: Only 5% to 10% of breast cancers are known to be hereditary. Majority of women who contract breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Factors such as environment and lifestyle play a huge role in determining a person’s likelihood of contracting breast cancer.
That being said, if you do have a family history of breast cancer, you must be extra careful, especially as you age. Healthy breast cells may develop mutations over time that can cause breast cancer. Therefore, make it a point to regularly examine yourself for the disease.
MYTH: Wearing bras can increase the chances of getting breast cancer.
FACT: There is no evidence to suggest that bras could cause breast cancer. There are several internet articles that claim that wearing a bra could cause breast cancer. The reasoning suggested was that wearing bras (especially underwire style) could restrict the flow of lymph fluid, leading to the buildup of toxic substances. However, according to a 2014 study by Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, where 1500 women with breast cancer were studied, no link was found between bras and breast cancer.
MYTH: Excessive sugar consumption could cause breast cancer.
FACT: There is no evidence to suggest that the claim is true. It is often believed that sugar could speed up the growth of cancerous cells. However, no scientific study has found any link between sugar consumption and the likelihood of getting breast cancer.
Consuming too much sugar is never a good idea. It may lead to obesity and other health disorders, and as we know, an unhealthy body is more likely to contract diseases. It is, therefore, highly recommended that you keep your sugar cravings in check.
MYTH: If you have breast cancer, you will feel the lumps in your breasts.
FACT: Breast cancer doesn’t always cause a lump, especially in the early stages. Many people believe that breast cancer can always be detected by checking the breasts for lumps. They sometimes use this as a reason to skip mammograms as they’re under the impression that if they’re not feeling any lumps, they’re free from breast cancer. This could be very dangerous as, by the time breast cancer causes a significant palpable lump, it may have already spread to the lymph nodes. Thus it’s a good idea to perform self-examination regularly, however one shouldn’t solely rely upon them.
MYTH: Early-stage breast cancer never recurs.
FACT: Even after the early-stage breast cancer has been treated, cancer may still return.
Many people believe that early-stage breast cancer has zero chance of recurring. Even though statistically, most people who have their early-stage breast cancer treated in time do not see a recurrence, it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t recur. It is, therefore, essential that you regularly get checked for breast cancer even if you’ve defeated it in the past.
Breast cancer is a very dangerous disease and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. While online guidance may seem like an easy approach, the smart thing to do is to take professional consultation whenever you feel something out of the ordinary.