October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which focuses on increasing awareness and highlighting the importance of early detection. Although there has been a significant increase in awareness over the years, there is still a great deal of information about the disease that can cause some confusion.

Here is a look at three common myths about breast cancer and the truth behind them.

Myth: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.
The Truth:  Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. If you find a lump in your breast or notice changes in tissue, it is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam or imaging.

Take charge of your health. Perform routine breast self-exams, establish ongoing communication with your doctor, get an annual clinical breast exam, and schedule your regular screening mammograms.

Myth: Men do not get breast cancer; it affects women only.
The Truth:  Quite the contrary. Annually, approximately 2,190 men1 will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 410 will die each year. While this percentage is small, men should also periodically do a breast self-exam while in the shower and report changes to their physicians.

Breast cancer in men is usually found as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less. Men are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment.

Myth: You are not likely to develop breast cancer if you do not have a family history of breast cancer.
The Truth:  Women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group. However, most women who have breast cancer have no family history. Statistically, only about 10% of individuals1 diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.

  • A first-degree relative with breast cancer: If you have a mother, daughter, or sister who developed breast cancer below the age of 50, you should consider regular diagnostic breast imaging starting ten years before the age of your relative’s diagnosis.
  • A second-degree relative with breast cancer: If you have had a grandmother or aunt who was diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk increases slightly. It is not at the same risk as those with a first-degree relative with breast cancer.
  • Multiple generations diagnosed with breast cancer: If there are 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.

When breast cancer is detected early, in the localized stage, the 5-year survival rate is 98%.3

Knowledge is power, it is vital to learn the facts about the disease. The more you learn about this disease, the better equipped you will be to make decisions about annual exams, screenings, risk reduction, and treatment options. Work with your provider to better understand your risk, and the steps you can take to be in charge of your breast health.

  1. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html
  2. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet
  3. https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-stage-0-and-stage-1