October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it brings into focus how important early detection is to surviving breast cancer. It is difficult to find someone who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2023 it is estimated that over 297,000 women and 2,800 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The good news, and the reason we focus on detecting the cancer early, is that the 5-year survival rate is 99% when the cancer is diagnosed in its early, localized stages. It is evident why it is important to adhere to the recommended processes and schedule for detecting breast cancer. We also should be vocal advocates for ensuring that the regulations and funding are available to continue the development of more advanced detection tools and the discovery of new treatments for the cancer itself.
I’m going to stop here for a minute to talk to the men. The women in our lives historically are the ones that ensure our families get the medical attention we need. Men are the knuckle heads (I include myself here) that put off seeing a doctor. We’re the idiots that prescribe the highly effective, “rub some dirt into it” as the treatment for a skinned knee. Most of us have at least 8 women who are especially important to us. With the knowledge that one of those 8 will get breast cancer, we should be the ones who know what the process and schedule is and encourage our loved ones to do their own self-examination, get their mammograms as recommended and have regular doctor visits. By the way, men can also get breast cancer, so it is important for us to have thorough physicals once a year.
I’m going to give you some good links at the end of the blog to get you to the information you need concerning breast cancer, but first I want to share a few things that jumped out at me as I did the research on breast cancer. It’s important to note that finding a lump during the personal examination doesn’t in and of itself indicate that there is a tumor, benign or otherwise (see myth below). There are small grape sized pockets that are mostly water that can be discovered during your self-examination that are not tumors and may or may not be removed. Many myths have invaded the information around breast cancer. Here are a few myths that need debunking.
Myth: A breast injury can cause breast cancer.
Truth: Injuries to the breast do not cause cancer.
Myth: Breast cancer is more common in women with bigger breasts.
Truth: There is no connection between breast size and cancer risk, although it can sometimes be more challenging to examine larger breasts.
Myth: Breast cancer only affects middle-aged or older women.
Truth: While most cases of breast cancer do occur in middle-aged or older women, a breast cancer diagnosis can happen at any age or any time.
Myth: Breast pain is a definite sign of breast cancer.
Truth: Interestingly, breast pain is usually not a sign of breast cancer.
Myth: Carrying a phone in your bra can cause breast cancer.
Truth: While carrying your cell phone in your bra may not be the most comfortable choice, it does not cause breast cancer.
Myth: All breast cancers are the same.
Truth: There are many different types of breast cancer—which are determined by the specific cells in the breast that become cancer—and each type has different features and considerations.
Myth: Bras with underwire can cause breast cancer.
Truth: No matter what the type, bras do not cause cancer.
Myth: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.
Truth: Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer.
Myth: A mammogram can cause breast cancer or spread it.
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 nor does it spread it. In fact, tighter compression during a mammogram leads to clearer images that are easier for the radiologist to read.
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.
Myth: Breast cancer is contagious.
Truth: You cannot catch breast cancer or transfer it to someone else’s body.
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.
There are two web sites that I found to be informative with the option to read in depth on many subjects concerning breast cancer. The first is Breastcancer.org – Breast Cancer Information and Support and the second is the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Both these sites are excellent trustworthy sources of information. I hope this focus on breast cancer helps you commit to being vigilant in taking the steps necessary to assure you the best chance of detecting breast cancer early.