Categories Other Cancers

Breast Cancer Misconceptions

Those working toward ending breast cancer have been plagued for years about the connection between abortions and miscarriages and breast cancer. Many have speculated that an induced abortion (or spontaneous abortion, as miscarriages are known as) have led to higher developments of breast cancer because of hormonal levels that lead to changes in the breasts (“Abortion, Miscarriage, and Breast Cancer Risk”). The National Cancer Institute consulted 100 experts on pregnancy and breast cancer and came to the definitive conclusion that there is no correlation between abortion and miscarriage and the risk of breast cancer (“Abortion, Miscarriage…”)

A more devastating myth is the notion that mammograms detect 100% of all breast cancers. In reality, mammograms falsely misdiagnose 35 to 70 out of 1,000 women as not having breast cancer when they do (“Mammography”). Human error is to account in most cases although there are still limitations in technology. However, it is important to realize that mammograms remain the only screening method available to find early onset breast cancer, so discounting them as unhelpful or unnecessary could lead many women to live with untreated cancer for an extended time. Mammograms should be utilized as cautionary tools. If a suspicious lump is visible and mammograms do not detect it, patients should request another mammogram or biopsy of the lump.

The road to requesting a mammogram often begins with monthly breast self-examination. Many look to this procedure as a fail-safe method toward determining if their lump is cancerous or not. A startling report has been released in recent months that highlight the ineffectiveness of self-exams. While many grassroots advocacy groups have persevered with their conviction that breast self examinations (BSE) are unhelpful and often stressful for women, it is only in recent months that groups such as the Canadian and American Cancer Societies have shied away from advocating BSE in their prevention tip brochures. Doctors and researchers reason that most lumps discovered from BSE’s are typically benign and cause undue worry and fear in patients. They maintain that the best screening method remains regularly scheduled yearly mammograms for women over 40.

While mammograms are known to dispense false prognosis in some cases, they still remain the best pre-diagnostic tool available. The American Cancer Society recommends that women 40 to 49 should have a screening performed every two years, and once a year for women age 50 and older (“Breast Cancer and Care”). More than 90% of breast cancers are detected from a mammogram (“Breast Cancer…”). A mammogram is an x-ray imaging of the breast, designed to detect suspicious lumps through low dose x-rays. While discovered some years earlier in Europe, the method was not used widely in the United States until the 1950’s. New developments in film imaging has reduced the amount of radiation needed to produce a picture and thus lessened the controversy surrounding the practice of mammography (“Mammography”).