Debunking breast cancer myths on Mothers Day

breast cancer

Michelle Chishamiso Madzudzo
THIS Mothers Day, there were thousands of families dealing with breast cancer globally and many more remembering mothers who have died from the disease. In the spirit of Mothers Day, lets’ turn to women in our lives and talk to them  about breast  cancer. I want to remind the women in Zimbabwe  the importance of regular self-breast examination and not missing out their mammogram appointment. Some of you are wondering what they can do for their mothers. The best gift you can give your mother is the encouragement for her  to lead a healthy lifestyle all year round.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Breast cancer is the second most common malignancy among both black and non-black Zimbabweans at 11,6% and 15,9% respectively, according to the Zimbabwe Cancer Registry Report 2015.

With so many Zimbabweans affected by breast cancer, there is a lot of information and unfortunately — misinformation available out there. It has become difficult to distinguish fact from fiction as much of the inaccurate information looks and sounds perfectly plausible. Breast cancer is one of the better known and talked about cancers, but still there are so many misconceptions and myths surrounding it.

To all the mothers out there this article intends to set the record straight on myths we regularly encounter, some of which may surprise you.

Myth: Breast cancer is largely genetic, if I don’t have a family history I won’t get it.

Fact: This is one of the biggest myths ever. Most people diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history of

Many people think of breast cancer as an inherited disease, but only 5 to 10% of them are believed to be hereditary, the rest 90 to 95% of breast cancer cases are due to changes that occur throughout a person’s lifetime as a natural result of aging and exposure to environmental factors such as tobacco smoke, radiation, smoking, hormonal factors and diet, among others.

Myth: Young women do not get breast cancer.

Fact: It is true that your risk of developing breast cancer increases with age but you can get breast cancer at any age. Although it is less common in young women, it can happen to you as a young mother in your 20s and 30s. Women of all ages need to pay attention to their breasts, perform self-exams, report any unusual change to doctors.

Myth: Wearing a wired bra can cause breast cancer.

Fact: From time to time, media coverage and the internet have fueled myths that wearing a wired bra causes breast cancer. The theory behind this is that a wired bra  restricts flow of lymph out of the breast, causing toxic substances to build up in tissue causing breast cancer. There is no scientific basis to support this claim and your use of wired bra will not contribute to your risk of breast

Myth: Carrying your cellphone  in your bra puts you at risk of breast cancer.

Fact: To date there is no conclusive evidence to support the claim, but the safety of cellphones is still being studied. Cellphones emit a type of low frequency energy that does not damage cells, but only results in tissue heating. However, research is still underway so in the meantime it is better to be safe than sorry. Why risk good health by using our smartphones in not so smart ways? In conclusion, to all the mothers out there,  although there is no proven breast cancer link, you may wish to avoid wearing your cellphone in your bra or chest until more research is available. Carry your phone in your purse and never fall asleep with it on your body. Limiting alcohol intake, not smoking followed by maintaining a healthy diet and keeping active are the most effective ways to reduce breast cancer risks.

Myth: Using underarm antiperspirant causes breast cancer.

Fact: There has been a persistent rumour that underarm persipirants especially those containing aluminum can cause breast cancer. The theory behind this states that chemicals absorbed into the lymph nodes make way to the breast cells and increase cancer risk. Another claim is that antiperspirants prevent release of toxic substances which can build up and cause cancer.

The reality is that breast cancer may invade surrounding breast tissue and enter lymphatic vessels and breast cancer typically arises in breast tissue, not lymph ducts. To date, there is no conclusive evidence to support this

Myth: I can get breast cancer from the radiation in mammograms.

Fact: Mammography, an X-ray of the breast, is the most important screening tool for breast cancer. Since mammography involves the use of radiation, there are claims that it can cause breast cancer. Studies have shown that the small amount from routine mammography is very insignificant and is extremely unlikely to cause breast cancer given the low

Myth: The most sure sign of breast cancer is a lump.

Fact: Roughly 80% of lumps in women breasts are caused by benign or non-cancerous changes, cysts and other conditions that occur in the breast. Please note that a lump is not the only way breast cancer presents itself, it can manifest itself in so many

  • Fluid discharge from the nipple
  • A change in appearance of the nipple
  • An inverted nipple
  • A change in the shape or appearance of the breast, such as swelling or skin dimpling
  • Change in size of the breast
  • Pain in the breast
  • Redness or scariing of skin on breast or nipple
  • Lumps in the armpit (axilla)
  • Breast pain

Myth: Breast cancer radiotherapy treatment kills more than it cures

Fact: Lets be clear, breast cancer treatment whether surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy is no walk the park. The side effects can be tough but these treatments do work! Due to advances in radiotherapy and chemotherapy breast cancer patients are now living longer. These treatments are most effective when the diagnosed patient is treated early, unfortunately in Zimbabwe 80% of the patients present late when the disease is advanced and the chances of cure are very low. Radiotherapy is very frequently given late in the course of cancer to palliate symptoms ,often after the breast cancer has turned resistant to chemotherapy and has spread widely or when the patient is too frail to receive any other therapy, the terminal cancer will take its natural course no matter what is done, in such cases relatives may form a misunderstanding that radiotherapy given soon before death caused the tumor to progress and the patient to die, this is untrue. Early detection and treatment saves lives. All women are encouraged to do the monthly breast self exam and to go for breast cancer screening for early detection and treatment saves lives .

Wrong ideas about breast cancer can lead to needless worry and even hinder good prevention and treatment decisions that mothers have to make. Lets keep talking about breast cancer throughout mothers day  and beyond!