25 Breast Cancer Myths and Misunderstandings (Nos. 6-10)
6. Myth: All women have a 1-in-8 chance of getting breast cancer.
7. Myth: Wearing antiperspirant increases your risk of getting breast cancer.
Reality: The American Cancer Society pooh-poohs this rumor, but admits that more research is needed. One small study did stumble on traces of parabens in a tiny sample of breast cancer tumors. Parabens, used as preservatives in some antiperspirants, have weak estrogen-like properties, but the study in question made no cause-and-effect connection between parabens and breast cancer, nor did it conclusively identify the source of the parabens found in tumors.
8. Myth: Small-breasted women have less chance of getting breast cancer.
Reality: There's no connection between the size of your breasts and your risk of getting breast cancer. Very large breasts may be harder to examine than small breasts, with clinical breast exams—and even mammograms and MRIs—more difficult to conduct. But all women, regardless of breast size, should commit to routine screenings and checkups.
9. Myth: Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.
Reality: A lump may indicate breast cancer (or one of many benign breast conditions), but women should also be on the alert for other kinds of changes that may be signs of cancer. These include swelling; skin irritation or dimpling; breast or nipple pain; nipple retraction (turning inward); redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin; or a discharge other than breast milk. Breast cancer can also spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause swelling there before a tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt. On the other hand, a mammogram may pick up breast cancer that has no outward symptoms at all.
Women with a rare type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) rarely have a breast lump. Symptoms of IBC include swelling, redness, itchiness, or warmth in the breast; tenderness or pain; a change in the nipple, such as retraction; skin that appears thick and pitted like an orange peel or with ridges and small bumps; an area of the breast that looks bruised; or swollen lymph nodes under the arm.
Doctors encourage women to report any changes that they notice in their breasts.
10. Myth: You can't get breast cancer after a mastectomy.
Reality: Some women do get breast cancer after a mastectomy, sometimes at the site of the scar. Or the original cancer may have spread. For women at high risk of breast cancer who have their breasts removed as a prophylactic or preventive measure, there's still a chance, though a small one, that they can get breast cancer. After prophylactic mastectomy a woman's risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by an average of 90%.