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Breast Cancer Myths

Myth #1: Only older women need to worry about breast cancer.
Though risk for breast cancer increases as we grow older, this disease can strike at any age. It’s important to stop thinking of breast cancer as an “older woman’s disease” and encourage younger women to begin breast self-exams early in life. This will get them in the habit of doing regular examinations and familiarize them with their normal breast tissue, so detecting a lump will be that much easier.

Myth #2: Only your mother’s family history of breast cancer affects your risk.
Your father and mother’s family history of breast cancer play an equally important role in contributing to your risk for breast cancer. Be sure to tell your doctor about occurrences of breast cancer in family members from both sides.

Myth #3: If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you’re not at risk.
Every woman has at least some risk for breast cancer, and nearly 85% percent of women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Regular breast self-exams and mammograms are crucial for any woman.

Myth #4: A monthly breast self-exam is the best way to catch breast cancer early.
Breast self-exams are a useful method for early detection, but they’re not a substitute for mammography and regular breast exams by a medical professional. These methods should be used together to provide the best chance of finding breast cancer in its early stages. No one precaution is a silver bullet.

Myth #5: Being diagnosed with breast cancer is a death sentence.
On the contrary, the average five-year survival rate for women with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer is 90%. The average 10-year survival rate for women with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer is 84%. If the invasive breast cancer is located only in the breast, the five-year survival rate of women with this disease is 99%. Plus, new treatments are becoming available every day, and your doctor can guide you through the various treatment options that might be right for you.

Myth #6: I’m at high risk for breast cancer, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
There's a lot you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Starting in your 20s, examine your breasts every month, looking for lumps, changes in skin texture, unusual tenderness, or discharge. Women ages 45 to 54 should have a mammogram every year and women 55 and older should have one every two years unless otherwise directed by their physician. Women at increased risk due to family history or past breast cancer should consult their doctor about the benefits and limitations of more frequent screening.