Fact vs fiction: Debunking breast cancer myths

Fact vs fiction: Debunking breast cancer myths

Monday, October 26, 2020

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DO you know what causes breast cancer? Do you get it from wearing your bra to sleep too much? Is it contagious?

Although medical experts can't pinpoint an exact cause of breast cancer, they agree that some of the myths surrounding breast cancer are damaging and false.

Chirag Parghi, medical director at the Breast Centers in Kingwood and Conroe, Texas, USA, has heard many breast cancer myths throughout his medical career, from minor myths to some that he believes are disturbing. Here he debunks for the Associated Press some of the more popular ones.

1. Mammograms cause cancer

People read unchecked and unsupervised content on non-evidence based Internet forums where they learn that mammograms give you exposure to radiation and cause cancer. Mammograms do expose you to radiation, but flying in a plane exposes you to radiation (as well). Parghi said the radiation exposure during a mammogram exam is very minimal.

“Mammograms do not cause cancer, they help detect early cancer and that is evidence based,” Parghi said.

2. Women under age 40 cannot get a mammogram

Women under the age of 40 who feel they need to do a mammogram can do so, but Parghi suggests other methods first to detect any signs of breast cancer.

“It's [around] the age of 30 where you start considering mammograms, before [this age], unless it's under extreme circumstances, we don't consider mammograms,” Parghi said.

3. Teenagers can't get breast cancer

While the possibility of them getting breast cancer is low, it is possible, he said.

“There are some strains in types of cancers that can occur, [but] they're very, very, very, uncommon,” Parghi said.

4. Women who sleep with a bra on have a higher risk of getting breast cancer

“Absolutely false, 100 per cent false. There's no evidence for that and there's nothing that backs that claim up,” Parghi said.

5. Breast cancer is hereditary

Although scientists know that genetics play a role in the development of certain cancers, breast cancer is not a hereditary disease, as some claim.

“Most cases of breast cancer are not genetic, they're spontaneous. So it can happen for the first time in their family and it's not a genetic thing. That being said, there are certain types [of cancer], and we're actually learning that better, understanding the genetic mutations in breast cancer. So there are panel tests if you qualify depending when they were diagnosed. The younger they were diagnosed the more qualified for such testing,” Parghi said.

However, the impact of race on breast cancer is not a myth, he said.

Black people have a higher incidence of breast cancer, Parghi said.

Risk factors for breast cancer

Although there is no certain cause of breast cancer yet determined in the medical field, there are some common risk factors associated that could increase the chance of getting breast cancer, such as obesity, excessive alcohol intake, excessive oestrogen use, age and being a woman.

Parghi recommends that women in their 20s do a monthly self-breast examination to determine if they feel a lump in their chest area and for women over the age of 40 to do a yearly mammogram exam.

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