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Understanding Breast Cancer: Myths & FAQs

There are a lot of misconceptions about breast cancer. Get some clarity around common myths and read some of the commonly asked questions.

Breast Cancer Myths

  • Myth: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer. 
    Truth: If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor soon, but don’t panic — 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. For additional peace of mind, call your healthcare provider whenever you have concerns.

  • Myth: Men do not get breast cancer; it affects women only. 
    Truth: While the percentage of men affected is relatively small, the mortality rate is 25% higher in men than women. This is primarily due to decreased awareness and that men are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment. Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola.

  • Myth: Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer. 
    Truth: Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

  • Myth: A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread. 
    Truth: A mammogram, or x-ray of the breast, currently remains the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Breast compression while getting a mammogram cannot cause cancer to spread. The standard recommendation is an annual mammographic screening for women beginning at age 40. Base your decision on your physician’s recommendation and be sure to discuss any remaining questions or concerns you may have with your physician.

  • Myth: If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer, too. 
    Truth: While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, most women who have breast cancer have no family history. Statistically only about 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.

    If you have a first-degree relative – i.e., mother, daughter, or sister – who developed breast cancer below the age of 50, you should consider some form of regular diagnostic breast imaging starting 10 years before the age of your relative’s diagnosis.

    If you have multiple generations diagnosed with breast cancer on the same side of the family, or if there are several individuals who are first degree relatives to one another, or several family members diagnosed under age 50, the probability increases that there is a breast cancer gene contributing to the cause of this familial history. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine what course of action is best for you when it comes to recommended screening frequency.

To read other breast cancer myths, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Breast Cancer FAQs

  • Q: Can physical activity reduce the risk of breast cancer? 
    A: Engaging in regular exercise is good for you for many reasons, and one of them is to lower your risk of getting breast cancer. Many studies conducted over the past 20 years have shown consistently that an increase in physical activity is linked to a lower breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society recommends all adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week.

  • Q: Can a healthy diet help to prevent breast cancer? 
    A: While no food or diet can prevent you from getting breast cancer, some foods can make your body the healthiest it can be and help keep your risk for breast cancer as low as possible. A nutritious, low-fat diet (30 grams or less) with plenty of fruits and green and orange vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. A high-fat diet increases the risk because fat triggers estrogen production that can fuel tumor growth.†

  • Q: How often should I go to my doctor for a check-up? 
    A: You should have a physical every year which includes a clinical breast exam and pelvic exam. If any unusual symptoms or changes in your breasts occur before your scheduled visit, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. Your doctor might advise that you watch to see if the abnormality persists through your next menstrual period or they might recommend a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound be scheduled immediately.

To read other breast cancer FAQs, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

† Women’s Health Initiative Trial,