Truths and myths about breast cancer

Published Oct 5, 2017 at 12:00pm

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women.

Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. Think about how many women you know in your life. It is probably quite a few. Now think about this….1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

The following are some of the top Myths and Truths About Breast Cancer as according to the American Cancer Society.

Myth: No one in my family has ever had breast cancer so I don’t need to worry about it.

Truth: About 8 out of 10 breast cancers are diagnosed in women who have no family history of breast cancer.

Myth: If I’m going to get breast cancer, there is nothing I can do about it.

Truth: There are things you can do about it. There are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of breast cancer. We know that when breast cancer is found early, while it is small and before it spreads, treatment can be more successful. A mammogram can find a tumor when it is still small. This is why screening for breast cancer is so important.  

You can also help reduce your risk by getting to and maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of exercise, and limiting your alcohol intake.

Myth: These tests cost a lot and I can’t afford a mammogram.

Truth: Insurance companies should all cover the cost of a routine screening mammogram. Additionally, in New York, most insurances will not charge a co-pay or bill for diagnostic imaging thanks to a law passed in 2016. For women without insurance, the Oneida County Health Department’s Cancer Services Program will cover a screening mammogram for all women ages 40 to 64 who live in Oneida, Herkimer or Madison counties. Call 315-798-5248 for more information.

Myth: Since mammograms are x-rays, the radiation could be dangerous.

Truth: Today the level of radiation in a mammogram is very low and does not significantly raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Myth: I heard that mammograms hurt.

Truth: Many women may feel some discomfort but only for a very short time. If you are having pain, be sure to tell the technologist doing your mammogram.

Myth: If I get a mammogram, they are going to find breast cancer.

Truth: Most mammogram results come back normal. If a suspicious area is found on a mammogram, more tests may be needed to find out what it is. Another mammogram may be done, focusing on the area of concern. A doctor may also use a thin needle to remove fluid or a small amount of tissue from the suspicious area. This is called a biopsy and it is the only way to know for sure if the change is caused by cancer.

Mammograms are still one of the best methods for early detection, and as was stated previously, the earlier that cancer is detected, the better the treatment options and the more successful treatment will be. For these reasons, screening for breast cancer is so important. If you do not know how to find a facility where you can get screened, you can text “Get Screened” to 81336 and you will be sent a list of places in your area that offer mammograms.

The American Cancer Society’s current screening guidelines are as follows:

Women ages of 40 and 44 have the option to start screening by mammogram yearly. 

Women ages of 45 and 54 should get mammograms yearly. Women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or choose to continue to go yearly. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.

For more information on mammograms and breast cancer screening, visit the American Cancer Society website at cancer.org/breastcancer or call them at 1-800-227-2345.

If you or anyone you know does not have health insurance, the Cancer Services Program of Oneida, Herkimer and Madison Counties (CSP) may be able to pay for breast, cervical or colorectal cancer screening. Contact the CSP at 315-798-5248 for more information.