You Should Never Believe These Myths You’ve Heard About Breast Cancer

As if the words “breast cancer” weren’t terrifying enough, there is also some pretty scary misinformation about the disease floating around. In case you didn’t know, around one in every eight women in the U.S. will develop the disease in their lifetime. And while there is still much to learn about this cancer, we are more aware than ever of the signs to look out for and ways to decrease your risk.

Misinformation about breast cancer is not only scary, but dangerous. We investigated some of the most common myths and found the facts to bust them.

1. Wearing an underwire bra increases your risk

Breast cancer self check

Woman checking for breast cancer | iStock.com/Tharakorn

Rumor has it that underwire in bras can cause toxins to accumulate in the breast due to the way they compress the tissue, Health notes. Fortunately for all women who wear this type of bra, this claim has yet to be proven. The lymphatic system in the breast is not compromised, no matter what type of bra you choose to wear. Feel free to continue wearing your clothing of choice regardless of what it’s made of.

Next: Even if you develop the disease, you may not need to get this surgery performed. 

2. If you get breast cancer, you’ll need a mastectomy

Close-up of surgeons hands holding surgical scissors

Close-up of surgeons hands holding surgical scissors. | xmee/iStock/Getty Images

When you think about breast cancer treatment, a mastectomy may be top of mind. But USA Today reminds us that this procedure isn’t actually as common as you may expect. It’s much more common for doctors to recommend radiation therapy or other breast-saving procedures before talk of a mastectomy is even brought into the equation.

Additionally, not all mastectomies require the entire removal of the breast. Many only partially remove the damaged tissue.

Next: Scared of your deodorant? You shouldn’t be. 

3. Your antiperspirant is giving you breast cancer

Applying deodorant

Girl applying deodorant | Anetlanda/iStock/Getty Images

Recently, many folks have claimed that common deodorants may contain cancer-causing ingredients. And, because they’re applied near the breasts, it makes sense to think these antiperspirants also may impact your cancer risk. Fortunately, the National Cancer Institute has put that theory to rest and ensured the public that no scientific evidence links deodorant to breast cancer. If you’re still concerned, however, there are plenty of natural options you can try.

Next: Don’t skip this potentially life-saving test just because of this myth. 

4. Mammograms emit radiation that can give you cancer

Nurse holding an X ray

Nurse holding an X-ray from a mammogram | Thomasandreas/Getty Images

It’s true that mammograms do emit radiation, but the medical community has the broad consensus that it’s far safer to get the test than to skip it. The Guardian reminds us that catching breast cancer — or any cancer — early is key in reducing the risk of dying by nearly 25%. For that reason, it’s more important than ever to continue getting routine testing, like your annual mammogram, to ensure no tumors in your breast tissue have formed. Additionally, the radiation from the test isn’t nearly enough to increase your cancer risk, so keep this in mind.

Next: Should men be worried, too?

5. Only women have to worry about breast cancer

Doctor and patient

Doctor talking to her male patient | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

You may think only women need to know the facts about breast cancer, but men can develop the disease in this area of their body, too. Admittedly, it’s much rarer for men to get breast cancer, as their breast tissue is only about as developed as a pre-pubescent girl’s. Even so, it’s certainly possible and has happened before. And the disease can be particularly deadly for men who don’t know any of the symptoms.

For men who have close female relatives who’ve had breast cancer, have had a history of radiation exposure to the chest, or who have a disease that affects the testicles, they should be particularly wary.

Next: If you undergo this elective procedure, you don’t have to worry about developing cancer from it.

6. If you get breast implants, you’re also increasing your cancer risk

Surgeon holding a breast implant

Surgeon holding a breast implant | Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images

If you want breast implants, you may be worried that the procedure will put you at an increased risk for cancer. The good news is you have nothing to worry about. Though your breast tissue will be manipulated during the surgery, there’s been no evidence to suggest that it has any impact on your cancer risk.

It is worth noting, however, that mammograms don’t always work as well on women with implants, Health notes. In some cases, other X-rays are needed to examine the tissue more thoroughly.

Next: If you feel a lump, don’t immediately panic. 

7. All breast lumps are definitely cancerous

Woman examining her breasts

Woman performing a self breast Exam | iStock.com

It’s natural to be worried when you feel a lump in your breast — but you shouldn’t panic immediately. While lumps in your breast tissue, whether they’re painful or not, could mean cancer, that’s not always the case. The American Cancer Society notes most changes in your breast are totally benign. And there are several types of lumps you may feel that won’t harm you in the slightest.

If you do feel something unusual in the tissue, you should still always bring it up with your doctor. They’ll be able to offer you tests that can show what’s going on below the surface.

Next: If you develop the condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go through this treatment. 

8. Everyone who gets breast cancer goes through chemotherapy

Young cancer patient resting in bed

Young cancer patient resting in bed | Ridofranz/ iStock

You know by now that one of the most common courses of action for treating cancer is to undergo chemotherapy. But not everyone with the disease has to go through this aggressive treatment. USA Today notes the best course of action for treating your cancer largely depends on how big the tumor is and your personal biology. If you’re particularly uncomfortable with chemo and want to explore your options, always mention that to your doctor.

Next: Does this type of food really make cancer worse?

9. Eating sugar will make breast cancer way worse

Sugar

Sugar | Stocksnapper/iStock/Getty Images

The National Cancer Institute notes that some studies have shown that cancer cells do, in fact, eat more glucose than the average cell. But even so, there’s currently no research to suggest that sugary foods make breast cancer (or any cancer) worse when it’s already developed. On the same note, there’s no evidence to suggest that cutting out sugar while you have cancer will improve your symptoms or make the tumor shrink.

With that said, the benefits of a healthy diet are well-documented, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to get your fruits and veggies in. Just know that if you eat sugary foods from time to time, it won’t have much of an impact here.

Next: Family history isn’t always the most telling. 

10. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you’re doomed

Mother With Teenage Daughter

Mother with her teenage daughter | iStock.com/bowdenimages

Depending on how many of your relatives have had breast cancer, you may have an average to high risk of the disease. Even so, you shouldn’t assume you’ll get it just because it may run in your family. Your genes may put you at a higher than average risk than the rest of the population, but knowing that early on can help you take preventative measures years before it’s ever an issue.

If you’re worried about your risk, Macmillan Cancer Support says you should talk to your general practitioner. They can help you come up with a plan to help you feel more at ease.

Next: If you do get surgery for cancer, know that this is a myth. 

11. Breast cancer surgery can cause it to spread in the body

A team performs surgery.

A team performs surgery. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

If you develop cancer, life-saving surgery may be in order. And the National Cancer Institute explains some people believe that the surgery itself can cause the tumor to spread. The odds of this happening are extremely low, however — and it’s not something you should be concerned about. Surgeons know how to prevent cancer cells from spreading while a tumor is being removed. And it’s far safer to extract the tumor than it is to leave it in your body.

Next: You should be aware that there are many types of this disease. 

12. There’s only one type of breast cancer

doctor writing on a medical chart

Close-up of a doctor writing on a medical chart | Bojan89/iStock/Getty Images

Though breast cancer is often referred to as one type of cancer, USA Today notes you should consider it as more of an umbrella term. There are actually over a dozen different types of breast cancer alone. Tumors that start in the milk-producing glands are most common, but there are other types that can begin in the muscle, fat, or connective tissue. And of course, depending on what type you have and where it’s located, your treatment options may vary.

Next: Many people don’t understand this aspect of treatment. 

13. If you take a break from treatment, you’ll be way worse off

Young woman talking to a mental health professional

Young woman talking to a mental health professional | Monkeybusinessimages/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

Cancer treatment, no matter what you choose to go with, can be hard on you both physically and mentally. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for some folks to take a temporary break from it while they still have the disease. WebMD notes while the treatments may be working to shrink the tumor, you may want to pause and reevaluate at some point. In this case, talk to your healthcare provider about scheduled breaks. These can be done and don’t necessarily mean you’ll be worse off for taking them.

Next: Does injury to the breast really cause cancer?

14. Trauma or injury to the breast can induce cancer

Woman with a chest injury

Woman with a chest injury | SIphotography/iStock/Getty Images

It’s a common belief that getting hit in the breast or sustaining an injury in this area can cause cancer, but Breast Cancer Care ensures that’s not true. While it may cause bruising, swelling that could temporarily misshapen the breast, you shouldn’t worry about cancer in this instance.

Additionally, if you do feel a lump after a breast injury, what you may be experiencing is fat necrosis. This just means scar tissue has formed during your body’s natural process of repairing the damage.

Next: More information you need to know about breast lumps

15. If you develop breast cancer, you’ll always feel a lump

Woman with her fingers in the shape of a heart around the pink breast cancer ribbon

Woman with her fingers in the shape of a heart around the pink breast cancer ribbon | iStock.com/Rudyanto Wijaya

You’ve been told to check for lumps in your breasts at home. But you may not realize that breast cancer doesn’t necessarily always occur with a lump as a symptom. If you’re experiencing textural changes in the skin, nipple discharge, a difference in temperature from one breast to the other, a change in the general shape or size of the breast, or even upper back pain, these can all be hidden signs of cancer. Any unusual bodily symptoms at all should be brought up to your doctor, no matter how abnormal or embarrassing they may seem.

Additional reporting by Jessica Wick

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