Monday, January 13, 2014

Breast Health Shouldn’t be a Guessing Game

     It’s not uncommon to worry about breast cancer. One in eight women are diagnosed with the disease and most everyone knows someone who is touched by it. Rather than let the fear of breast cancer hang over our heads, Meritus Health clears the air on breast health and cancer. Here are some myths about breast cancer:

Breast cancer only occurs in older women.
     While it’s true that the risk of breast cancer increases as we grow older, breast cancer can occur at any age. The American Cancer Society says that women between the ages of 20-24 have the lowest rate of diagnosis, while women aged 75-79 have the highest incidence rate.

One of my family members has breast cancer, so I will definitely get it.
     While it’s important to inform your doctor about your family history, the majority of women who have breast cancer have no family history. That said, your risk increases with the number of first-degree relatives—mother, sister or daughter—diagnosed and their age at diagnosis.

Every lump is cancerous.
      Not true. Roughly 80 percent of lumps in women's breasts are caused by noncancerous changes, cysts, or other conditions. Because it’s important to catch breast cancer early, know how your breasts look and feel, report any changes to your physician and begin annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.
     A lump may indicate breast cancer or a benign breast conditions, but women should also look for changes that may be signs of cancer. These include swelling; skin irritation or dimpling; breast or nipple pain; an inward turning of the nipple; redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin; or a discharge other than breast milk.

Antiperspirants cause breast cancer.
     There’s no conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants with the subsequent development of breast cancer. Studies show that the ingredients in antiperspirant do not clog the lymph nodes and do not hinder the body from releasing toxins.

Women with large breasts are at a higher risk for breast cancer.
     False. Breast size does not play a role in the risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast implants cause breast cancer.
     Breast implants may make breast self-exams more difficult and may make it harder for a doctor to interpret a mammogram, but they do not cause cancer.

Wearing an underwire bra, a tight bra, a sports bra, or even sleeping with a bra will cause breast cancer.
     Although some bras may be uncomfortable, the constant pressure of snug bra on the breast does not cause trauma or breast cancer.

Mammography is perfect.
     While mammograms are the best and most accurate way to detect any issues, they are not always perfect. On average, mammography will detect about 80-90 percent of breast cancers in women without symptoms. It’s important to have both a clinical breast exam and a mammogram. During a clinical breast exam, your provider carefully exams your breasts and underarm for any changes or abnormalities. Women between the ages of 20 and 39 should have a clinical breast exam every three years. Women age 40 and older should have a clinical breast exam and a mammogram on an annual basis.

Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of cancer.
     Radiation is used in mammography, but the amount is so small and the preventive benefit so huge. Mammograms can detect lumps well before they can be felt or otherwise noticed, and the earlier lumps are caught, the better your chances for survival.

Breast cancer is preventable.
       While there are some risk factors you can control—weight, exercise, alcohol use—you cannot change your age, family history and how old you were when you started and stopped having menstrual periods. The best defense is early detection of breast cancer through clinical breast exams and annual mammography.

Taking breast health seriously.
     During the month of January, Meritus Health is raising awareness about the importance of breast health and breast cancer screenings for employees and their loved ones. Employees will be asked to take the PINK PLEDGE—a personal commitment to be screened or encourage someone they care about to do the same.

Sources: The National Cancer Institute, Food and Drug Administration, the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society.

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