Breast Cancer Myths

Breast Cancer Myths

Myth No. 1:

Men don’t get breast cancer.

Although it is rare, men can develop breast cancer. Men with family histories of breast cancer should talk with their doctors about their personal risks. If you have a male relative with breast cancer, you should talk to your own doctor about what that means for you. You could be at increased risk for developing breast cancer. Genetic consultation becomes more important when men in the family have breast cancer.

Myth No. 2:

All the breast cancer is on my father’s side, so I do not need to worry.

When you are born, you have 2 sets of genes. One set comes from your mother and the other set comes from your father. You have equal chance of inheriting a gene or trait from either side of the family. Both your mother’s and father’s family histories are important.

Myth No. 3:

There’s a history of breast cancer in my family, so I’m bound to get it.

It is important to know that most breast cancers are not caused by an inherited trait. Not every woman with a family history of breast cancer is at increased risk for the disease. Breast cancer most commonly occurs after menopause. Postmenopausal women who develop breast cancer likely do not carry an inherited trait that they have passed on to, or share with, other relatives. Your personal risk may be elevated if more than one relative was diagnosed when she was postmenopausal or if a relative had breast cancer at age 50 or younger. However, the more distant the relative (mother, grandmother, great-grandmother), the less likely it is that her history affects you. So, it’s important for you to know as many details as you can about your family history and to share it with your doctor.

File BRCA Genetic Testing for Patients with and without Breast Cancer (137.7KB)

Myth No. 4:

If I have breast cancer, I will need a mastectomy.

Your cancer’s stage, your personal medical history, and your personal preference will determine the type of surgery that is appropriate. The majority of breast cancers in the United States are found at an early stage. Lumpectomy is an effective surgical treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Choosing mastectomy does not offer any greater success in the treatment of an early-stage breast cancer. Many studies have shown that lumpectomy has the same survival outcomes as mastectomy.

Myth No. 5:

If I have breast cancer, I need chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is not automatically included in a breast cancer treatment plan. Your case must meet very specific criteria in order for your doctor to recommend chemotherapy.

Myth No. 6:

Breast cancer hurts.

Early breast cancer is very rarely painful. Most often breast pain is caused by a noncancerous condition, such as hormonal changes, fibrocystic breast tissue, or breast cysts.

Myth No. 7:

If I find a breast lump, it’s probably cancer.

Most lumps that women find on self breast exam are not breast cancer. Usually they are normal tissue changes or benign lumps. Be sure, however, to see your doctor if you notice a change in your breasts.

Myth No. 8:

I have breast cancer so my kids will get breast cancer.

If you are postmenopausal (no longer having menstrual cycles) and have no family history of breast cancer, the chances that you have an inherited trait that you have passed on to your children are extremely low. If you are premenopausal (still having menstrual cycles) and develop breast cancer, the likelihood that you may carry an inherited trait that would increase your children’s risk of developing breast cancer may be higher. Your doctor will discuss these risks with you.

Myth No. 9:

Radiation therapy will cause my hair to fall out.

Radiation directed to breast tissue does not cause hair loss. Therapeutic radiation to the breast may cause local changes, such as darkening and thickening of the skin, as well as fatigue.

Myth No. 10:

There’s a history of cervical cancer in my family, so I am at increased risk for breast cancer.

Cervical cancer is not associated with traits that increase breast cancer risk. However, ovarian cancer may increase breast cancer risk. Therefore, you should be aware of the specific type of gynecological (“female”) cancer your relative(s) had and share that information with your doctor.

Myth No. 11:

I got breast cancer because I wear underwire bras.

Wearing underwire bras is not linked to breast cancer.