6 Big Myths about Breast Cancer Screening

6 Big Myths about Breast Cancer Screening

To mark the close of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed every October by countries around the world, GBTI was proud to make a donation of nearly $400,000 to the Guyana Cancer Foundation and the Periwinkle Club.

This act of giving has become a regular activity for GBTI, as it’s an important way for the bank and its staff to show their gratitude for the work that these organizations do to support people affected by cancer.

One of the main activities of the Guyana Cancer Foundation is to help facilitate access to breast cancer screenings and to raise awareness of how regular screenings can help detect cancer early, which can improve the chances of beating the disease. Although information about breast cancer is more widely available than ever, many myths and misconceptions still surround both the disease and the screening process, unfortunately having the effect of preventing people from seeking out diagnostic or care options available to them.

Some of the biggest myths about breast cancer and screenings include:

MYTH: I won’t get breast cancer before I’m 50.

While breast cancer is more likely to affect women over the age of 50, this doesn’t mean that young women never develop the disease. For example, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society,  close to 27,000 women under the age of 45 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. While women do not usually start having routine breast cancer screenings until they reach the age of 50 (due to factors such as higher breast tissue density in younger women), it’s important for women to be aware of these statistics, to conduct monthly self-exams, and to begin routine screenings as early as possible.

MYTH: I won’t get breast cancer if I don’t have a family history of the disease.

It’s true that a family history of breast cancer does mean your risk of developing the disease is higher, but it’s not true that no family history means no risk. In fact, more than 75 percent of women who develop breast cancer come from families with no known history of the disease.

MYTH: Breast cancer is always life-threatening.

Many people avoid getting regular screenings because they consider breast cancer a life-threatening disease, and they think that if there’s nothing that can be done, they might as well not know if they have it. But, in fact, not all breast cancers are life-threatening. Some types of breast cancer that can be detected through a screening will never cause any harm, but it’s vitally important to know about them so that any potentially dangerous changes can be carefully monitored.

MYTH: It doesn’t matter when breast cancer is detected so long as it is detected.

Of course, detecting cancer at any stage is better than not at all, but many people seriously underestimate how important it is to detect breast cancer early. When cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it is usually smaller and is less likely to have spread, making successful treatment a much stronger possibility.

According to data from Cancer Research UK, over 90 percent of women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis at the earliest stage survive the disease for more than five years (compared to a five-year survival rate of about 15 percent for women who are not diagnosed until the disease is in its most advanced stage).

MYTH: Mammograms can cause cancer.

Another misplaced fear many people have is that the breast cancer screening process itself can cause cancer because it involves a certain amount of radiation exposure. However, the radiation dose you will experience during a mammogram is very small, equivalent to about six months of the background radiation exposure you typically get from everyday life.

Any risk from radiation exposure during a mammogram is therefore very low, and is far outweighed by the benefits of regular screening. Furthermore, no known case of breast cancer has ever been proved to have been caused by radiation exposure during a mammogram.

MYTH: I don’t need to be screened for breast cancer if I’m doing a monthly self-exam.

While monthly self-exams are a very important part of maintaining good overall health, as women who are familiar with how their breast area normally looks and feels will have a much easier time noticing changes or abnormalities, they should be considered a complement to, and not a substitute for, routine breast cancer screenings.

Mammograms remain the international gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Typically, a mammogram can find a lump as much as three years before a woman would be able to feel it herself during a self-exam. Furthermore, in women over the age of 50, breast cancer screenings are able to detect cancers about 90 percent of the time.