General Breast Myths

General Breast Myths

MYTH No. 1:

My breasts stopped growing after puberty.

Breast tissue continues to change over time, and some women experience breast growth in adulthood. This may be due to hormonal changes (for example, during pregnancy), as well as weight gain. Some women experience growth in only one breast well after puberty. While it is important to be sure that nothing unusual is growing in the breast, the change is most often because of a woman’s normal physiology.

MYTH No. 2: 

I have dense breasts and that’s abnormal.

Dense breast tissue is a consequence of age and hormone levels. Some women have dense breast tissue into menopause and beyond. Dense breast tissue is not a disease and is not abnormal.

MYTH No. 3: 

When I examine my breasts, I feel lumps all over the place and that’s abnormal.

Most breasts are not uniform in texture. Breast tissue is often described as “lumpy, bumpy.” This is because normal breast tissue is made up of different components, including the milk production components (the ductal-lobular units), the structural component (stroma), as well as fat (adipose tissue). These components and the ratio of these components in the breast are what cause the breasts to feel “lumpy” or nodular.

MYTH No. 4: 

Too much calcium in my diet causes calcium deposits on mammogram.

Excess dietary calcium is eliminated by your kidneys. It does not collect in your breasts.

MYTH No. 5:

Taking bio-identical hormones does not cause breast pain.

Many women experience breast pain due to hormonal changes. A hormone is a chemical and whether the source is from the person’s own body (endogenous) or consumed as a pill, patch, ointment, gel, or lotion (exogenous), its effect is the same. Thus bio-identical hormones can cause breast pain in women using them.

MYTH No. 6:

I have nipple discharge and that means I have a disease.

Most cases of nipple discharge are due to normal hormone changes or residual lactation. Discharge can occur well into adulthood and well after breastfeeding is complete. If it happens in both breasts, if the discharge involves several ducts in the same breast, or if the discharge is green, tan, or white, it is unlikely to be a health concern. If the discharge is from one specific duct or if it is clear or bloody, it is more likely to be associated with a breast problem. Your doctor will be able to help evaluate your specific concern.

MYTH No. 7:

Breast pain means something is wrong with my breasts.

Breast pain is usually caused by normal hormonal changes that cause swelling of the breast tissue. Some noncancerous conditions, such as cysts and fibroadenomas, can cause breast pain. A common cause of breast pain is actually inflammation of the muscles and bones of the chest wall. Pay attention to your physical activities, as well as such factors as your posture, the weight of your purse, and your sleep position. Adjusting these may alleviate your pain.

MYTH No. 8:

I have breast implants, so I can’t have mammograms.

Having breast implants does not mean you can’t get mammograms. Mammography technologists use special techniques that allow them to image the breast tissue without it being obscured by the implant. The risk of an implant rupturing due to a mammogram is extremely low.

MYTH No. 9:

I have dense breasts, so I should get MRIs instead of mammograms for my breast cancer screening.

Mammograms remain the gold standard for breast cancer screening, even for dense breasts. Screening breast MRIs are recommended for women who carry an inherited trait for developing breast cancer, such as the BRCA gene, and for women who have a higher than 20% to 25% risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Having dense breasts is not an automatic reason to undergo breast MRI.

MYTH No. 10:

Pain or a lump in my armpit is not related to my breast.

It may or may not be. Your breast does extend into your armpit, as a structure called the axillary tail. Also, lumps in the armpit may be caused by lymph nodes (axillary lymph nodes). Axillary lymph nodes may be a normal condition but they can also be the first sign of a breast cancer. It is important to have armpit concerns checked out by your doctor.