25 Breast Cancer Myths and Misunderstandings (Nos. 11-15)
(ARTIC.EDU)11. Myth: Your father's family history of breast cancer doesn't affect your risk as much as your mother's.
Reality: Your father's family history of breast cancer is just as important as your mother's in understanding your risk. But to find out about the risk stemming from your father's side of the family, you need to look primarily at the women; while men do get breast cancer, women are more vulnerable to it. Associated cancers in men (such as early-onset prostate or colon cancer) on either side are also important to factor in when doing a full family-tree risk assessment.
Istockphoto12. Myth: Caffeine causes breast cancer.
Reality: No causal connection has been found between drinking caffeine and getting breast cancer; in fact, some research suggests that caffeine may actually lower your risk. So far it's inconclusive whether breast soreness may be linked to caffeine.
13. Myth: If you're at risk for breast cancer, there's little you can do but watch for the signs.
Reality: There's a lot that women can do to lower their risk, including losing weight if they're obese, getting regular exercise, lowering or eliminating alcohol consumption, being rigorous about examining their own breasts, and having regular clinical exams and mammograms. Quitting smoking wouldn't hurt either. Some high-risk women also choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy to decrease their risk by roughly 90%. They can take other proactive steps such as having regular MRIs, exploring chemoprevention with treatments such as tamoxifen, and participating in clinical trials. The important thing to do if you think you might be at high risk is to talk to an expert who can evaluate your situation and discuss your options. High-risk women's clinics and preventive-care programs are great places to start.
14. Myth: Women with lumpy breasts (also known as fibrocystic breast changes) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Reality: In the past, women with lumpy, dense, or fibrocystic breasts were believed to be at higher risk of getting breast cancer, but there doesn't appear to be a connection after all. However, when you have lumpy breasts, it can be trickier to differentiate normal tissue from cancerous tissue, so you may experience false alarms. Women with fibrocystic breasts often follow up their mammograms with an ultrasound.
(GETTY IMAGES)15. Myth: Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of cancer.
Reality: While it's true that radiation is used in mammography, the amount is so small that any associated risks are tiny when compared to the huge preventive benefits reaped from the test. Mammograms can detect lumps well before they can be felt or otherwise noticed, and the earlier that lumps are caught, the better one's chances for survival. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women age 40 and older receive a screening mammogram every year.