Myths and Facts

10 Jul

I will preface this post by saying the tumor that was removed from my breast is benign (not cancer)! YAY!!! The lymph nodes in the area are still quite enlarged (since the first scan last September) so I will return in 4 months for another scan, and if they haven’t gone down by then….well I’ll deal with that if or when the time comes.

In these past few months I have reached out to breast cancer survivors, as well as those recently diagnosed, just to chat and hear their experiences. One of the common topics that repeatedly came up, were the myths that surround breast cancer.  I would like to share some of these myths and facts, as it is very important for everyone to know.  I even had a former medical professional tell me, that if I had no relatives with breast cancer the chances I would have it were next to none.  That is myth #1, in fact 80% of women who have breast cancer do NOT have a family history. 

Know your body, and if something isn’t right don’t be afraid to seek medical help or go for a second opinion.

Here are my top 5 myths about breast cancer from the Canadian Cancer Society and Screening for Life.

  1. Only women with a family history of breast cancer will get it.

    The truth is, 80% of women who develop breast cancer have no family history. So it’s important to understand that you are still at risk for breast cancer even if no one in your family has ever had the disease.

  2. Do antiperspirants cause breast cancer?

    The claim

    Antiperspirants may cause breast cancer because they:
    • stop your body from sweating and keep toxins inside your body
    • are applied near lymph nodes
    • contain aluminum

    The truth

    There is no evidence that the use of antiperspirants increases your risk for breast cancer.

    It’s true that antiperspirants stop perspiration (sweating), but the main purpose of perspiration is to cool your body – not to get rid of toxins. Lymph nodes in the armpits clear some toxins from your body, but your liver and kidneys play a bigger role. Far more toxins are removed by your kidneys and liver than through sweating.

    Most breast cancers develop in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast near the armpit. But that’s because this area has a lot of breast tissue, not because lymph nodes are there.

    Some antiperspirants and deodorants contain aluminum. Your doctor may tell you not to wear deodorant containing aluminum when you go for a screening mammogram. The aluminum could show up on the mammogram images and lead to an inaccurate result by making breast cancers and other abnormalities harder to find. But there is no link between aluminum and breast cancer risk.

  3. Does stress cause cancer?

    When you live with a lot of stress, you’re at a greater risk for developing cancer.

    The truth

    Research has not proven a definite cause-and-effect relationship between stress and cancer. The connection between your emotional (psychological) health and physical health is very complex. Psychological stress can affect your body. Some studies suggest a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer.

    3 cancer risk factors linked to stress
    • Stress can weaken your immune system. Your immune system defends your body against infections and diseases, such as cancer. A weakened immune system plays a role in the development of some types of cancer.
    • Stress can alter the levels of certain hormones in your body. This may also put you at greater risk of developing cancer.
    • Stress may lead to unhealthy behaviours. Overeating, smoking and heavy drinking are all lifestyle factors that increase cancer risk.
  4. What’s the link between sugar and cancer?

    The claim

    Sugar feeds cancer – and it makes cancer grow faster.

    The truth

    Your body’s cells consume sugar as they grow and divide, but eating sugar does not make cancer cells grow faster.

    All cells require sugar (glucose) for energy. Your body can also store sugar to use as energy later. Your body needs this sugar to function normally. Canadians consume thousands of dietary components every day, so it’s hard to pinpoint precise links between diet and cancer.

    When sugar can increase your risk of cancer

    Eating lots of foods that contain sugar means you’re more likely to gain weight. Research shows that obesity increases your cancer risk. Obesity may cause changes in hormone levels which may also put you at a greater risk of developing cancer. A healthy body weight will be different for everyone, so talk to your doctor about yours.

  5. There is nothing a woman can do to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer.

    There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of breast cancer:

    • Physical Activity – Be physically active throughout your life and exercise every day.
    • Weight – Try to reach or stay at a healthy body weight. This becomes even more important after menopause.
    • Alcohol – Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink per day.
    • Smoking – Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. If you’re currently a smoker, talk to your healthcare provider about options for quitting or cutting back.
    • Long-term Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRT) – Limit using the combination of estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone replacement therapy to no more than 5 years; long-term use (beyond 5 years) increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. But within 2 years of stopping, a woman’s risk of breast cancer returns to average.

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