October is breast cancer awareness month. This month more than 22,000 people in the U.S. will receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in American women, yet many still have misconceptions about the disease. Let’s separate some common myths from facts.
Myth #1: Breast cancer only affects women.
The truth is anyone with breast tissue can develop breast cancer. While men make up less than 1% of breast cancer diagnoses in the U.S., there are still more than 2,000 male breast cancer cases diagnosed yearly in the U.S.
Myth #2: If you have the BRCA gene, you are more likely to get cancer.
Everyone has the BRCA genes, which aid in fighting breast cancer. Some have mutated or broken BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes, which do not function properly and allow breast cancer cells to develop and take hold, making people with BRCA gene mutations more likely to develop breast cancer in their lifetimes.
Myth #3: Breast cancer runs in families, and I don’t have to worry if I don’t have a family history.
While having a family history of breast or ovarian cancers does increase your risk, more than 60% of breast cancer patients have no known risk factors.
Myth #4: If I find a lump, it’s probably breast cancer.
It is common for there to be changes in breast tissue with age and hormonal changes. Many types of benign tumors and cysts can develop sporadically. In reality, only 3% to 5% of breast lumps are cancerous.
Myth #5: Birth control pills cause breast cancer.
Birth control pills are linked to a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer, which varies according to the type of birth control pills used. This risk is highest among women over the age of 40. This risk stops increasing after a woman stops taking hormonal contraception. Between 5 and 10 years after a woman has stopped taking hormonal contraception, their risk level returns to normal.
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