Tuesday, March 8, 2016

You can learn about radiation, lumps, self-exams

Kansas City newspaper debunks seven popular myths about mammograms, breast cancer 

Lisa Gutierrez
Ignorance about breast health can can be fatal.

But it's now questionable if determining whether obtaining information via mammograms is the most intelligent way.

The American Cancer Society recently issued new guidelines that urged most women to get mammograms yearly only between the ages of 45 and 54. Other groups, however, still recommend starting them at 40.

Virtually all organizations have hedged their bets by insisting that testing be voluntary, meaning woman still can choose to have mammograms earlier or more often. 

No matter what, consultations with physicians are strongly advocated.

According to a recent story by Lisa Gutierrez in the Kansas City Star, there are at least seven popular misconceptions — or myths — about breast health. They are:

Myth No. 1: "Annual mammograms increase your risk of cancer because of the radiation they use."

Fact: The amount typically used is low and safe. Older machines that used higher amounts have been discontinued.

Myth 2: A negative mammogram means you're safe.

Fact: Tests fail to detect from 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers. 

Myth 3: Lumps always mean cancer.

Fact: About 80 percent of breast lumps are benign.

Myth 4: Your self-exam showed no lumps so you must be safe.

Fact: Breast cancer can present itself in other ways. Good breast health means routine checking for pain or nipple tenderness, changes in how breasts feel and look, lumps or thickening near a breast or in the underarm area, red or swollen skin on a breast, a breast that feels warm to the touch, and nipple discharge.

Myth 5: Small breasts mean no cancer.

Fact: Size means nothing. But larger breasts can be harder to examine and might be less comfortable with the mammogram procedure.

Myth 6: Men don't get breast cancer.

Fact: Wrong. More than 2,000 males are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Myth 7: Coffee, antiperspirants, underwire bras and chemical hair straighteners cause cancer.

Fact: None of them have been proved to be causal. Some research, in fact, shows coffee can lower your risk.

To read about other myths and facts concerning the disease, check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," the VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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