BREAST CAN­CER MYTHS DE­BUNKED

Know the dif­fer­ence be­tween fact and fic­tion when it comes to breast can­cer? Here, the ex­perts set the record straight on some of the most com­mon mis­con­cep­tions.

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Health & Fitness -

MYTH: Only women get breast can­cer. TRUTH: Men can de­velop breast can­cer, too, though male breast can­cer is very rare, says Dr Khoo. In fact, only one per­cent of all breast can­cers di­ag­nosed are in male pa­tients. “But, re­gard­less of whether some­one is male or fe­male, they are all treated along the same prin­ci­ple,” he says.

MYTH: Con­sum­ing soy prod­ucts can in­crease the risk of breast can­cer. TRUTH: There is no strong ev­i­dence of a link be­tween soy and breast can­cer, says Dr Khoo. “Soy prod­ucts such as tofu and soy milk con­tain a group of chem­i­cals called isoflavones, which are plant-based oe­stro­gens that may mimic the ac­tion of hu­man oe­stro­gen. Be­cause oe­stro­gen plays a part in the de­vel­op­ment, growth and spread of breast can­cers, and be­cause most breast can­cers are hor­mone sen­si­tive, there is this con­cern about con­sum­ing soy prod­ucts. How­ever, that doesn’t mean these prod­ucts can’t be con­sumed at all; my sug­ges­tion is to con­sume them in mod­er­a­tion.”

MYTH: Us­ing de­odor­ant can cause breast can­cer. TRUTH: Deodor­ants do not cause breast can­cer, says Dr Khoo. “There is no con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that deodor­ants can cause breast can­cer. This myth prob­a­bly started be­cause peo­ple be­lieved that the chem­i­cals in the de­odor­ant can be ab­sorbed through the armpit, which is not true,” he says. “So, de­odor­ant is gen­er­ally safe to use, but try to use those with less chem­i­cals, as they are also gen­tler to the skin.”

MYTH: Breast can­cers are al­ways in the form of a lump. TRUTH: “Symp­toms of breast can­cer are quite vari­able,” says Dr Chan. “The most com­mon symp­tom is a pain­less lump in the breast, but breast can­cer can also present it­self as per­sis­tent breast swelling, con­tin­ual skin thick­en­ing or puck­er­ing, or lumps in the armpit. Pa­tients should also pay at­ten­tion to nip­ple changes such as a new on­set of nip­ple re­trac­tion, per­sis­tent rash over the nip­ple or bloody dis­charge from the nip­ple.”

MYTH: You don’t need mam­mo­grams if you lead a healthy life­style. TRUTH: “Mam­mo­grams are still es­sen­tial for breast health, no mat­ter what,” says Dr Chan. “While it’s true that reg­u­lar ex­er­cise can re­duce the risk of de­vel­op­ing breast can­cer by 10 to 20 per­cent, pa­tients who lead healthy life­styles can still de­velop the dis­ease. A screen­ing mam­mo­gram can de­tect can­cer in the breast even be­fore the tu­mour can be felt or cause any symp­toms. An early di­ag­no­sis can re­duce the need for ma­jor surgery, and hope­fully avoid the need for chemo­ther­apy as well. It’s rec­om­mended that women aged from 40 to 49 go for an­nual screen­ing mam­mo­grams and, after turn­ing 50, a mam­mo­gram once ev­ery two years.”

MYTH: Re­moval of the en­tire breast is safer than seg­men­tal mas­tec­tomy and ra­di­a­tion ther­apy. TRUTH: “It’s nat­u­ral for any woman with breast can­cer to feel that re­moval of the en­tire breast is safer than hav­ing some breast tis­sue left be­hind. ‘ Just get it out’ is a com­mon re­sponse, as the risk of lo­cal re­cur­rence is lower,” says Dr Chanyaputhipong. “How­ever, stud­ies have shown that, although there is a slightly in­creased rate of re­cur­rence in the BCS group, there is no dif­fer­ence in sur­vival be­tween the two.”

MYTH: Women with a strong fam­ily his­tory of breast can­cer should not even con­sider breast­con­serv­ing surgery. “If we are talk­ing about the ‘An­gelina ef­fect’, where the woman car­ries the mu­tated gene that can cause breast can­cer but does not yet have can­cer, if she chooses surgery, BCS is not an op­tion! We won’t know the quad­rant in which the can­cer will de­velop,” says Dr Chanyaputhipong. “How­ever, if we’re talk­ing about a woman with breast can­cer who also has strong fam­ily his­tory of breast can­cer, she can be of­fered BCS if there are no con­traindi­ca­tions. It all comes down to un­der­stand­ing the risks, ben­e­fits, op­tions avail­able and one’s own pref­er­ence.”

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