Breast cancer: myths and facts

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women. There are several common myths myths surrounding breast cancer.

Myth: If you have a positive family history of breast cancer, you will definitely develop breast cancer.

Fact: This is not true. There are many women who do have a positive family history of breast cancer and do not develop breast cancer. Additionally, while women, who have a family history of breast cancer, are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer, the majority of women who do develop breast cancer do not have a family history. If, however, you do have a grandmother, mother, daughter, sister or other family member, who has had breast cancer, you should speak to your doctor about regular assessments.

Myth: Men do not develop breast cancer.
Fact: This is not true In fact, men can, and do, develop breast cancer. While the percentage of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer is low, men should also be aware of this possibility, and they should consult their doctors if they have any concerns.

Myth:When you find a lump in your breast, it automatically means that you have breast cancer.
Fact: This is not true. In fact, eight out of ten lumps found in the breast are "benign", or not malignant cancer. If, however, you discover a lump in your breast, or have any changes in your breast (including discharges, bleeding or skin changes), it is very important that you consult your doctor immediately. Only your doctor can diagnose these conditions and suggest treatment. Sometimes women refrain from consulting their doctor because of a fear of what they might find. Therefore, it is essential to take care of your own health by monthly self-examination, regular visits to the doctor, and regular mammograms.

Myth: A mammogram is not necessary.
Fact: This is not true. An x-ray of the breast, a "mammogram" may be required to assess a breast lump. Your doctor will be able to advise you on this.

Myth: Breast cancer can "spread between people" and is a communicable disease.
Fact: This is not true. It is not possible to "pass on" or "catch" breast cancer from other people. Breast cancer is a type of cancer, which is a result of cancer-related disease processes.

The following women have an increased risk of contracting breast cancer:

  • Older women or women with a family history
  • Childless women or women who had their first child after 35
  • Women whose menstrual cycles started at a very early age (before 12), or women with a late menopause
  • Women who follow a high fat diet
  • Women who already had cancer of the one breast
  • Women who have symptoms of fibroadenosis

Read more about breast health in Health24's Breast Centre

(Medi-Clinic press release, October 2005)

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