Busting breast cancer myths

There are plenty of rumors about what causes breast cancer floating around on the internet and in emails from friends, but be careful what you believe. Check out these common myths about breast cancer and the truth behind them.

Myth: Most breast lumps are cancerous.

Truth: Actually almost 80 percent of lumps are found to be benign (non-cancerous). However, breast cancer can be present without a lump.

“Aside from feeling a lump, women should look for other changes in their breasts, such as skin dimpling, nipple retraction, redness or scaling of the nipple, bloody or clear nipple discharge or pinpoint breast pain,” says Kinsey Pillsbury, board-certified Radiologist with fellowship training in breast imaging and intervention. “Even if a patient has had a recent screening mammogram, she should contact her physician if she notices any of these changes. Additional specialized mammographic views or an ultrasound may be needed to evaluate these signs.”

Myth: Breast cancer is something only older women have to think about.

Truth: While the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms begin at age 40, younger women need to be aware of signs and symptoms, particularly if family history indicates they could be at greater risk.

“If a first-degree relative had premenopausal breast cancer, you should have a mammogram 10 years prior to the age that relative was diagnosed,” recommends Dr. Pillsbury. If a close female relative has had breast or ovarian cancer, younger women may want to speak with a physician about being tested for a BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene mutation, which could indicate up to an 8 percent risk for these cancers. If the genes are discovered before cancer develops, options are available to better mitigate cancer risk.

Myth: Women with dense breast tissue do NOT have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Truth: About 40 percent of women in the U.S. have dense breasts, meaning they have more glandular/fibrous tissue than fatty tissue. Women with dense breast tissue may have an increased risk of breast cancer, and it can also be more challenging to identify certain types of breast cancer through traditional 2-D mammography.

“Research shows that getting regular 3-D mammograms is the best way to detect cancer early, especially for women with dense breast tissue,” said Dr. Pillsbury.

One out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Annual mammograms are the best protection against breast cancer; studies show 76 percent of Nevada women age 40 and older had a mammogram within the last two years. Carson Tahoe’s goal is to educate and empower women to take charge of their health through early breast cancer detection.

To learn more about breast health services, visit www.CarsonTahoe.com/Breast-Center. To schedule your mammogram, call (775) 445-5500.


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