In South Africa, one in 26 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her life. Knowing the facts about the disease can help you stay healthy, and to detect it early if it strikes. Remember: early detection is key to beating breast cancer.
Read more: How to do a breast self-exam.
10 Breast cancer myths debunked
1. Breast cancer is a ‘white’ disease
Although white women have the highest risk of developing breast cancer, with one in 12 developing it, all women across all racial groups are affected. Asian and Coloured women have a one in 18 chance of developing the disease, and Black women have a one in 49 chance.
2. Only women in ‘high risk’ categories will develop breast cancer
Although certain factors can increase your risk of developing the disease, anyone can be diagnosed with breast cancer. Family history, health, lifestyle and other factors are not a guarantee that you will or won’t get the disease – sometimes it is completely random.
3. Finding a lump means you have breast cancer
Only two out of 10 lumps are cancerous – but you should always get every lump checked by your doctor. Other symptoms of breast cancer include puckering of the skin and/or nipples, rashes, discharge from the nipples, pain, or change in the shape of the breasts or nipples.
4. Breast cancer is contagious
Breast cancer cannot be given to anyone else. It’s an illness that develops because of changes in the cells within your body, and can’t be passed on to another person.
5. Breast cancer can’t be treated
When detected early, breast cancer, like many other types of cancer, can be treated and even beaten. The success of treatment depends largely on how early the cancer is found, which is why regular self-exams are critical.
6. Breast cancer doesn’t affect young women
Although age is a huge risk factor for breast cancer, it can affect adult women of any age. The older you are, however, the greater risk you face, especially once you’re over 50.
7. Using deodorants can cause breast cancer
There’s no conclusive evidence that using deodorants can cause breast cancer, or that the ingredients in them can lead to the disease.
8. Men can’t get breast cancer
This is a myth that surprises a lot of people. Men can get breast cancer because although they don’t have breasts in the same way women do, they still have breast tissue. The percentage of men who get breast cancer is much smaller than women, but they are still affected nonetheless.
9. Age and/or family history are the only risk factors when it comes to breast cancer
There are several risk factors that contribute to your chances of developing the disease. Other factors include being a smoker, being overweight, not following a healthy diet, excessive alcohol consumption, not exercising, and living an overall unhealthy life
10. Having an abortion can increase your risk of breast cancer
Again, studies have found no conclusive link between having had an abortion at any stage of your life and developing breast cancer. Greater risk factors are likely to be your age, your general state of health, how much you drink and/or smoke, and other lifestyle factors that contribute to your overall well-being.
Book a breast exam at Marie Stopes
Whether you’re concerned about something in particular or just want to ensure you’re in good health, make an appointment at your nearest Marie Stopes centre. We can also give you advice on doing breast self-exams and what to look out for in future.