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Breast Evaluation and Treatment

Prevention and Early Detection of Breast Cancer

Myths About Breast Cancer

Myth: If the mammography report is negative, there is nothing else to worry about.

Fact: 10 percent to 15 percent of all breast cancers are missed on mammography. Some lumps can only be felt and are not seen on mammography because of the density of the lump.

Myth: Finding a lump is the only way a woman can detect breast cancer.

Fact: Some cancers don't form a lump. A visual exam of the breasts can often show symptoms that need to be reported to a health care provider.

Myth: A breast lump must be surgically removed to find out if it is malignant.

Fact: Many breast cancers can be diagnosed without a surgical procedure.

Myth: Removal of the entire breast is safer than segmental mastectomy and radiation therapy.

Fact: Survival is similar for patients who have breast-conserving therapy and those who undergo total or modified mastectomy.

Myth: No history of breast cancer in your family means you never have to worry about having it.

Fact: All women are at risk of having breast cancer. Over three-quarters of women diagnosed had no family history of breast cancer.

Myth: A mother's family history of breast cancer is the only important history.

Fact: A father's family history is equally important. Hereditary breast cancer is caused by inheriting a mutated gene from either your father or mother.

Myth: The most important risk factor is the number of relatives who have had breast cancer.

Fact: Age of occurrence is more important than the number of relatives diagnosed. Early age of diagnosis is a "red flag" for hereditary breast cancer.

Myth: Women at high risk for having breast cancer cannot do anything about their risk.

Fact: Women at high risk because of family history or because they are identified as a carrier of the breast cancer gene can do something about their risk.
Recommended steps to take include the following:

Myth: Breast cancer should be removed immediately before it spreads.

Fact: Breast cancer is not usually an emergency, with the exception of inflammatory breast cancer. Most cancers 1 cm in size have been in the breast for 8-10 years.

Myth: All breast cancer patients receive the same treatments.

Fact: There are 15 different types of breast cancer, and each type can vary in aggressiveness of growth. The "cookie cutter" approach to treating breast cancer is a thing of the past. Every woman's breast cancer is unique, and treatment needs to be tailored to the individual's specific needs.

Myth: Women with a strong history of breast cancer should not consider breast-conserving therapy.

Fact: A strong family history of breast cancer is not a contraindication to breast-conserving therapy.

Myth: Women should not have immediate breast reconstruction to be sure cancer does not recur.

Fact: There is no reason to delay reconstruction in most patients.

Myth: Chemotherapy is given only to women with advanced breast cancer.

Fact: Chemotherapy is now recommended for most women with breast cancer.

Myth: Breast cancer does not occur in young women.

Fact: Breast cancer can and does occur in women of all ages. A woman's risk of breast cancer increases with age.

Myth: Estrogens cause breast cancer.

Fact: No data have shown that estrogen pills cause breast cancer.

Myth: Mammography is painful and can harm the breast.

Fact: Although it can be uncomfortable, it is not harmful to the breast and is not usually painful.


This page was last updated on: February 28, 2008.