Breast Cancer: Be Aware, Not Scared

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Truth be told – the web is not the ideal place for medical diagnosis. If you want to find out what a symptom could mean, reading up online is perhaps the worst decision you could make. With a sea of content (some of which are scientific, some vague and some even nonsensical) floating around, there is no way you could be guaranteed of authentic information, and you’d really rather visit your doctor instead. With breast cancer being the most prevalent cancer among women, it becomes all the more important to be careful about what you read or believe in.

Here, we attempt to clear a few popular misconceptions.

  1. Mammograms give you cancer                                                                                                                Mammogram

This is as bizarre as it is incorrect. Research tells us that the amount of radiation from a mammogram is similar to the amount you are exposed to on an average flight. Moreover, strict guidelines make sure that the equipment in use is within safety standards and emits the lowest possible amount of radiation. These are low dose x-ray exams that do not create any significant risk of cancer.

  1. Breast lump = breast cancer

Not true again. 80% of breast lumps end up being benign and not cancerous. However, if you do discover a lump, you should visit a doctor and get it checked.

  1. Only family history can lead to breast cancer

This is a big misconception. Most breast cancer cases happen to those without a family history, although having a history does increase its chances. But what’s important to note is that every woman is at risk. So it is important to get annual mammography tests done post 40, and get regular physical tests done by doctors.

  1. You can’t just walk in for a mammogram

Yes, you can. If you are looking to get a regular screening mammogram done, you don’t need a doctor’s reference. You can walk into a centre or hospital and get it done. However, if you do find a lump or any reason to want an investigation, it is advisable to first visit a physician before going for any tests.

  1. Injuries can cause cancer

Injuries, falling or being hit on the chest will not increase your chances of cancer. What may happen is that an injury could lead to a lump (fat necrosis), which is basically scar tissue formation while the body tries to repair the damaged breast tissues. These lumps are benign and there’s no need to push the panic button.  Occasionally, during examination of an injury by a doctor, a pre-existing lump may be discovered serindipitously, giving rise to the misconception that the injury caused the disease!

  1. Deodorants are dangerous 

Deodorant

The fear here is that the job of deodorants – that of controlling the amount of toxins we sweat out – is actually dangerous. Because in reducing toxin-release, they end up storing them in lymph glands under the armpit, eventually causing cancer. The first misconception here is that sweating is the only way to release toxins. Also, there has been no definitive evidence that chemicals used in deodorants are harmful and cancer-causing in any way.

  1. Wearing a bra is harmful

There have been concerns on the harmful effects of under-wires used in bras, and how they restrict the flow of lymph fluid in the breast and cause a building up of toxins in the region. Again, there has been no conclusive evidence to prove the correlation. However, it is important to wear bras that fit you right and aren’t too small or tight.

  1. A lump is your only indication

Breast Cancer_Doc consultation

A lump is only one of the many symptoms. In some cases of breast cancer, a lump is not even noticed. Discoloring, a change in shape, fluid discharge, and change in skin texture – there could be several symptoms that could suggest a need for examination. What’s imperative is to examine yourself regularly and visit a doctor in case of any perceptible and recent change.

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