Debunking the breast cancer myths

Today’s guest writer is Elizabeth Nixon, an editor at women’s health website, where she shares information on the topics of cancer, chemotherapy and patient stories.

Having lost an aunt, uncle and nearly both parents to different types of cancers, I’ve made it my goal to stay up-to-date on cancer research and treatments. And since breast cancer shows few hereditary ties – every woman should be checked for it regularly, regardless of a family history of the disease – it’s one cancer in particular I regularly follow in the media.

With new breast cancer treatment approaches emerging at a breakneck pace, what should every woman know today that she wouldn’t have been told by her doctor five years ago?

At, we did an interview with Dr. Susan Love*, a UCLA clinical professor of surgery and breast cancer, and author of the best-seller Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. She revealed some huge myths still being perpetuated about breast cancer. Namely, Love explained how there are at least five different kinds of breast cancer, each needing a tailored treatment plan.

Additionally, Dr. Love suggests breast cancer can be attacked in five different ways.

In the past, Love said, the thinking was the bigger the tumor or the more nodes involved, the more aggressive the treatment needed to be. “Now we’re finding that the treatment needs to match the tumor,” Love said.

Cancer is also not just about mutated cells in your breast(s). While earlier thinking about the disease called for an all-out, no-holds-barred attack against every cell, today’s treatment acknowledges that these cancer cells don’t live in isolation. They interact with healthy tissues, fat cells and blood vessels. In fact, mutated cancer cells can live in women for years doing no harm.

Research and autopsy studies have indicated about 39% of women ages 40 to 50 observed in the research had inactive breast cancer cells that weren’t harming the body.

To get breast cancer, you must have mutated cells but also an environment of tissue that encourages the cancer cells.

Dr. Love debunked some of the most common breast cancer myths. Here are some of her revelations:

  • Deodorant does not cause breast cancer.
  • Underwire bras do not cause breast cancer.
  • Early detection does not equal prevention. In fact, early detection makes a difference in only about one-third of breast cancer cases. –
  • Most breast cancer is not hereditary – actually, only 10% of breast cancer is due to a family history of the disease.
  • Large breasts do not tend to result in breast cancer more frequently than smaller breasts. Size doesn’t matter in breast cancer because the cancer originates in the milk duct lining, and the number of milk ducts doesn’t vary according to breast size. Breast density, however, is a risk factor and is currently being studied.

It’s likely that at some point in your life, you may hear one or more of these myths listed above. Together we can spread the facts about breast cancer to our well-meaning family and friends.

At Lifescript, we’re trying to do just that – get resources to help separate fact from fiction at Lifescript’s breast cancer health center, plus find many more doctor-reviewed breast cancer articles.

*Read the entire Lifescript interview with Dr. Love about breast cancer


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