For Breast Cancer, it’s important to know the facts about diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Clarification will lead to better understanding, and better health. Below are a few of the most common misconceptions.
“Mammograms are no longer necessary.”
There is no disagreement among experts that mammograms save lives, reducing mortality by 20 percent. Early detection leads to less harmful treatment and improved survival in all age groups.
Various Organizations such as The American Cancer Society, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, American College of Radiology, American College of OB-GYN and Cleveland Clinic, research continue to recommend annual screening mammograms for women at age 40.
“The self breast exam is a thing of the past.”
This is still the best way to know if there are changes in your breast tissues is to check yourself regularly, preferably the week after your menstrual cycle. Check particularly for breast lumps that may feel hard, like a frozen pea or lima bean.
Awareness also includes knowing your family history and updating it yearly, and knowing about behaviors that will reduce your risk. It also includes reporting any changes in your breast tissue to your healthcare provider.
“I feel something in my breast, but I recently had a normal mammogram. I’m sure I am OK.”
“A study conducted over an eight-year period looked at 1,222 patients with newly diagnosed breast cancer. It found that 13 percent of these patients had a normal mammogram within 12 months before their diagnosis. Knowing your breasts can play a critical role in the early detection of breast cancer, even when you also have annual screening mammograms.
It’s important to understand mammograms aren’t perfect. Up to 15 percent of women have false negative mammograms; cancer may be present even if the mammogram is normal.
“I don’t need annual mammograms — I need MRI.”
A mammogram is the only imaging technique that picks up microcalcifications, which may be the earliest sign of cancer. Mammograms are also better at detecting subtle changes in the breast shape, called architectural distortion.
In 2007, the American Cancer Society made recommendations for screening breast MRI, endorsing its use in certain groups of high-risk women. It has a high false-positive. Screening breast MRI is much more sensitive for detecting breast cancer early. But it’s not for everyone and does not replace the screening mammogram.
“Thermography is an effective substitute for a mammogram.”
Thermography makes images of the breasts’ radiant infrared energy for the purpose of detecting cancer. Mammograms are necessary and it was noted that, “concerned that women will … not receive needed mammograms” if they rely solely on thermography.
“Genetic mutations are common.”
Awareness about hereditary cancer syndromes has improved, in large part thanks to Angelina Jolie’s Courage in telling her story. Angelina Jolie had BRCA testing since her mother had Ovarian Cancer, which showed a mutation in her BRCA1 gene and then took brave steps to reduce her risk, including removal of her breast tissue and ovaries.
These gene changes are only found in about 1 in 400 people in the population so your case might be different.
“Prophylactic mastectomy is the only way to reduce your risk for breast cancer.”
Although early detection is key, with survival rates for early breast cancer being over 95 percent women should also know that there are other ways to reduce breast cancer risk.
Alcohol consumption and post-menopausal obesity are two risk factors. While studies about exercise are mixed, exercise reduces body fat, which can reduce your risk. It is recommended that one include maintains an ideal body weight and limits alcohol consumption to fewer than seven drinks per week.
“All women should have the most aggressive breast cancer treatments possible.”
Find a healthcare provider who takes time to explain the risks and benefits of any treatment options to you. You need to understand the best choice for your particular disease and body.
Women often can be spared mastectomy or chemotherapy if it will not alter their prognosis. Alternatives to the traditional course of radiation are also now available.
It is Breast Cancer awareness month people, and remember Knowledge is never too much.