Cancer / 27 Nov, 2019

Myths of breast cancer

Dr Lau Pik Onn

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in Singapore and much has been done to raise awareness on the disease. However, there are still misconceptions and lack of knowledge in the general public.

Myth 1: I have no family history of breast cancer, am healthy and exercise regularly, so I won’t get breast cancer

Although the risk of breast cancer increases if there is a family history, there are also other risk factors involved including age, late menopause and prolonged use of hormone replacement therapy.

A healthy lifestyle is no guarantee that a person will not develop cancer; it can happen to anyone. It’s important to be vigilant with regular breast self-examination and go for regular breast screening.

Myth 2: Breast cancer only happens in middle age women

Breast cancer can affect women of any age group, although the risk increases with age. In fact, about 13% of Singaporean women with breast cancer are aged below 40, which is why regular self-examinations of your breasts are important. Consult the doctor immediately if there are any symptoms of breast cancer such as lumps, changes in appearance of breast or discharge from nipples.

Myth 3: If the lump in my breast is not painful, it cannot be cancer

The majority of cancerous breast lumps are painless, especially in the early stages.  Never ignore any breast lumps, no matter how small or painless. Always consult your doctor for a thorough examination as the smaller the tumour, the higher the chance of eradicating cancer from the body.

Myth 4: I heard that radiation from a mammogram can cause cancer

The amount of radiation in mammogram screening is very low and safety levels are well established. The benefits of receiving a mammogram and potentially identifying breast cancer outweigh the risks imposed. According to the American Cancer Society, the radiation received from a mammogram is the same as one would get from a six hour plane trip.

Myth 5: Breast cancer cannot be cured, it is a death sentence

When cancer is detected early, especially at Stage 0, it can be treated successfully. The best chance of complete cure is when the cancer is discovered before it can be felt, hence the importance of regular breast screening. The key to successful treatment is early detection, early diagnosis and early treatment.

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