Setting the Record Straight about Breast Cancer

If there was a way to track global word usage, October would without a doubt be the month where the word “pink” is used the most. Not only do you see a flood of pink on your social media feeds, but pink themed campaigns are also a common sight in malls and even online stores. But don’t be fooled, this worldwide pink-loving movement is not a result of some sudden, inexplicable love for pink, but is instead in conjunction with something that is not frivolous at all: Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But in spite of being all about spreading awareness, many of these campaigns fall short in actually being able to get accurate information out to the masses, and instead just jump onto the #pink bandwagon and gloss over the real information. After all, awareness is awareness, isn’t it? But we here at PSLove feel that awareness is not complete unless accompanied by legit information, breast cancer is after all a serious condition that 1 in 17 women develop over their life times in Singapore, and affects many more indirectly. So here are some clarifications on the misconceptions you may have of breast cancer:

1. I am at risk of getting breast cancer only if it runs in my familyHereditary breast cancer

Without a doubt, heredity is indeed one of the risk factors of breast cancer. But this doesn’t mean that you can rest assured that you are safe from breast cancer just because you don’t have a history of the disease in your family. In fact, only 5 to 10% of people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer attribute it to genetics, the remaining cases are caused by later onset mutations that are a result of aging and exposure to other environmental and lifestyle factors. But on the other hand, if your family does have a history of breast cancer, doesn’t mean you’ll get it too. Evaluating risk factors has to come as a whole package, assess your risk here to get a preliminary look at your chances.

 

2. Wearing deodorant causes breast cancer

deodorant

This rumor is based on deodorants having chemicals that are thought to be absorbed through the skin, which then causes the release of toxins through your sweat to be prevented. These toxins then build up near your breast and cause breast cancer. In addition to this, the parabens in deodorant, which have estrogen-like properties, are thought to be cause breast cancer as well. However, research has shown that sweating is not a significant way for your body to release toxins, and other studies have not been able establish a connection between parabens and breast cancer. So don’t worry about it, no trade-offs have to be made for nice smelling armpits!

3. Wearing a bra increases your risk of getting breast cancer

braThe reason why this misconception came about was because people thought that wearing bras with underwires squeezed the lymphatic system of the breast and caused the build up of toxins there. But don’t go off burning bras just yet; no scientific study has been able to fine a significant difference in the risk of getting breast cancer in women who wore bras versus those who didn’t, and there is a scientific agreement that the tightness of your clothes or lingerie has no effect on your chances of getting breast cancer.

4. Young women don’t get breast cancer

Young woman chances of getting breast cancer

True enough, breast cancer is more common in postmenopausal women, however this doesn’t mean that younger women are not susceptible to breast cancer. But breast cancer can happen at any age, and it even can happen to men as well! This is a problem because many young women ignore the warning signs simply because they think they are too young to get breast cancer, and assume that a lump is a harmless cyst. In doing so, they deny themselves the opportunity to detect the cancer early, and don’t promptly treat it for increased chances of survival.

5. Going for mammograms are a sure-fire way to make sure I don’t get breast cancer!

mammogram

 

Mammograms are just a screening method to detect breast cancer that already exists; they cannot prevent or reduce your risk of getting breast cancer. It is still an imperfect technique, and up to 20% of all tumors are missed by mammograms. In addition to this, it may be more difficult for a mammogram to detect tumors in younger women, due to their naturally denser breast tissue. And unless there is a history of breast cancer within their families, it is generally not recommended that younger women go for mammograms due to the radiation they will be exposed to in doing so. However, going for mammograms is still an effective way to detect breast cancer, especially in older women, and they are able to reduce death amongst breast cancer patients by about 16%.

6. Once I’m at high risk, there’s nothing I can do to help

greens vegs

While there is no definitive way to say whether someone will get breast cancer or not, assessing risk is an important step in evaluating your chances of getting breast cancer. That said however, just because you have high risk doesn’t mean that you’re going to be doomed with an inevitable fate; there are steps you can take and changes to your lifestyle you can make to reduce this risk. For example, obesity, especially postmenopausal obesity, is associated with increased risk of developing. Other than this, increased physical activity, adopting a healthy diet, and reducing alcohol intake are also ways in which you can take action to lower your risk. If you are at high risk, then early detection, and appropriate treatment subsequently, will be extremely helpful. So don’t give up hope, even if your risk is high, a proactive approach to risk reduction is something we all can do to stay safe and informed. Find out more about what you can do here.

 

All in all, there are a lot of misconceptions about breast cancer that are perpetuated by the media and other groundless rumors. But the bottom line is that we just don’t know the exact cause of breast cancer, and until we do, we won’t know how to prevent it. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk, but doctors still can’t say for sure why some people with low risk develop it, while others with high risk don’t. But till that day, we can still remain mindful of our own bodies, and stay abreast (pun totally intended) with advancements made in the field of breast cancer research. We can also do our parts by informing others of what we now know of breast cancer, and fulfill the real purpose of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Chen Wei Chua

Chen Wei is an undergrad majoring in Psychology. She's currently spending a year in New York City, where she's interning at a startup. When she's not at work, you can find her practising yoga, or exploring the Big Apple with her camera in hand.

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