5 Common Breast Cancer Myths

By Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH

1. I can’t get breast cancer because it doesn’t run in my family. 

This is a very common myth. Although family history is very important in understanding one’s risk for breast cancer and although having multiple family members with breast cancer may elevate your risk, most breast cancer is not hereditary. We don’t know what causes most breast cancers and only a small proportion of breast cancer is explained by genes and/or family history. 

2. If I have a biopsy of my breast, it will spread cancer or give me cancer. 

I am asked a lot about how surgical procedures or biopsies may ‘spread’ a cancer. This is fortunately not true. Biopsies and surgical procedures are routine, safe, and do not increase the risk for abreast cancer to occur or spread. Surgery is actually the treatment we use in attempts to cure patients of their breast cancer (by removing it). 

Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH.
Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH.

3. I am too young to get breast cancer. 

Although aging is a risk factor for breast cancer and it is true that most breast cancers occur in older women, this statement is false. Young women can certainly get breast cancer and any mass, dimpling, or change in the appearance of a breast should warrant an evaluation to be sure that the changes are not related to cancer. If one has a lot of family members who had breast or ovarian cancer in particular, they should discuss their potential risks with their providers so that the timing of screening and possible genetic testing (to look for a hereditary pre-disposition) can be pursued. 

4. I can get breast cancer from wearing certain bras. 

There is no evidence to say that wearing certain types of bras are harmful to you. You should wear what is most comfortable and supportive. 

5. Having mammograms may cause breast cancer. 

Although there is a small amount of radiation needed to perform a mammogram, it is a small amount. It is extremely unlikely that any radiation from a mammogram would harm you.

3 responses to “5 Common Breast Cancer Myths

  1. 20+ years ago my mammogram was normal, wrong, gut feeling, to a doctor and a horrific mass has discovered/removed in the office under a local. Once biopsied the doc. returned, ” within a year you would have had full blown breast cancer on a normal mammogram! Do not ignore your body or gut feelings!

  2. I am confused. I spent 3 months in chemotherapy after surgery to remove a cancerous lump in my breast. Apparently, the treatment was to ensure no micro cells were left that might have escaped the surgery? If cells can escape the primary site, how can biopsies be safe?

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thank you for reading. There’s little reason to worry that a biopsy or other surgical procedure will allow cancer cells to escape and spread within the body, specialists say. Here is where you can find more information on this: https://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2017/05/can-a-tumor-biopsy-or-surgery-cause-cancer-to-spread/

      If you have any questions about your treatment or care, please reach out to your care team.

      Wishing you all the best,
      DFCI

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