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16 Common Myths About Breast Cancer

One in seven women will develop breast cancer in her life. But how much do most women really know about this disease? //

Breast cancer specialists from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center say that misconceptions often cause women more anxiety than necessary. And in some cases the fear paralyzes women and prevents them from seeking the care that could lead to successful treatment.

Here, experts debunk some of the most common myths about breast cancer:

1. You only get breast cancer if you have a family history. I don’t have a family history, so I don’t need to worry about it. Eighty percent to eighty-five percent of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Even if no one in your family has ever been diagnosed, that’s no excuse to skip your yearly mammogram. “It’s important all women over 40 years old be screened for breast cancer,” says Mark Helvie, M.D., U-M’s director of breast imaging.

2. I’m too young to worry about breast cancer. Breast cancer can affect women of any age. The disease is more common in post-menopausal women, but 25 percent of women with breast cancer are younger than 50. Younger women should have a yearly breast exam by their doctor and begin mammographic screening at age 40. While a breast mass in a younger woman is much less likely to be cancer than a lump in an older woman, it still needs to be checked out. At the same time, you’re never too old to get breast cancer. If you feel a lump – at any age – have it checked out.

3. If I’m diagnosed with breast cancer, it means I’m going to die. Doctors are doing quite well at treating breast cancer, with 10-year survival rates currently at 85 percent to 90 percent. When caught early, up to 98 percent of women survive at least five years. Breast cancer that has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body, poses the greatest challenge, although women with metastatic breast cancer often live for
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