- You can get breast cancer even if it doesn’t run in your family. True or false? True. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer – more than 85% – have no family history of the disease. Having a relative with breast cancer does increase your risk. But other factors such as age, being overweight, alcohol use, and hormone therapy after menopause can also increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
- If breast cancer runs in your family, you’re sure to get it. True or false? False. Having breast cancer in your family doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. Many times, cancer runs in families because they have similar lifestyle habits – habits you can control and change to lower your risk of breast cancer. This includes staying at a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, and not smoking. If you do suspect you have an inherited gene mutation, talk to your doctor about genetic counseling. The most common defects or mutations that increase breast cancer risk are in the BRCA genes. Knowing your family history empowers you to tackle the risk factors you can control. It should also motivate you to get screened regularly so that breast cancer is caught early – when it’s small, hasn’t spread, and is easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about what your risk is, when you need to start screening, and whether you need extra tests beyond mammograms.
- You still need mammograms after menopause. True or false? True. Getting older is not a reason to skip regular breast health checks. In fact, your risk of developing breast cancer goes up as you get older. About 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older. As long as you’re in good health and would be a candidate for treatment, you should continue getting mammograms.
- Men can get breast cancer. True or false? True. More than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Men should not ignore breast lumps and should get any breast changes checked. Still, breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than men, with more than 240,000 women diagnosed in each year.
- Surgery and needle biopsies can cause breast cancer to spread. True or false? False.Needle biopsies to diagnose breast cancer do not cause cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body. Nor does exposure to air during breast cancer surgery cause the disease to spread. Sometimes a surgeon does find more cancer than the imaging scans or X-rays showed, but in those cases the cancer was already there. It just hadn’t shown up on tests that were done.
- There’s nothing you can do to lower your breast cancer risk. True or false? False. While you can’t change certain risk factors – like being female and having a family history of breast cancer – you can do a lot to help reduce your breast cancer risk as much as possible. In a word: lifestyle. Exercise more and eat healthier, especially if you’re overweight or obese. Limit or eliminate alcohol and quit smoking. Cancer prevention isn’t fool-proof, but being responsible about your health can go a long way.
To learn more about breast cancer and screening guidelines log on to http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/index