Does Breast Cancer Only Impact Women? Debunking Common Myths Around the Disease

In the year 2020, nearly 23 lakh women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

3 min read

Video Editor: Pawan Kumar

In the year 2020 alone, nearly 23 lakh women were diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 6.85 lakh died globally, as per the World Health Organisation.

In India, data presented in the National Cancer Registry Programme report, shows that the number of cases of breast cancer are likely to increase to over 2.32 lakh in 2025. The report adds that this is the "leading site of cancer in females" and there has been a significant increase of 8.4 percent in the incidence rate from 2005 to 2016.

To create awareness about the disease, October is celebrated as the 'Breast Cancer Awareness Month,' and we decided to speak to Dr Uma Dangi, Consultant Medical Oncology, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital and Dr Rucha Kaushik, Consultant Breast Cancer Surgeon with PD Hinduja Hospital, to debunk some of the most common myths around it.


'Not All Lumps in the Breast Are Cancerous'

One of the most common myths about breast cancer is that all lumps found in the breast are cancerous. However, according to WHO, over 90 percent of lumps formed in the breast are not cancerous. Some of them are fibroadenomas, cysts, and some are infections.

Elaborating on this, Dr Dangi explains that even though a lump in the breast is one of the most common symptoms of breast cancer, it is not the only one.

She listed out some of the symptoms of breast cancer:

  • Cracked nipple region

  • Inverted nipple

  • Discharge from the nipple

  • Change in the contour or shape of the breasts

  • Thickened skin indicating an advanced stage of cancer


Underwire Bras: Do They Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer?

It's a common notion that a black bra or an underwire bra can increase the risk of cancer, but Dr Dangi says that there is no link between the two.

It is often feared that an underwire bra might restrict the lymph system which could produce toxins in the breasts. However, according to the American Cancer Society, there is no evidence that proves that compression of the lymph nodes by a bra causes cancer. A 2014 study also found no association between breast cancer and wearing a bra.


Who Can Get Affected By Breast Cancer?

We often hear myths about breast cancer only affecting older women. However, cancer can impact all age groups including men and women.

National Health Portal mentions that breast cancer can occur at any age, but it is common in women above the age of 40. Dr Dangi notes that people in the 20 to 30 age group are also suffering through breast cancer.

"It is true that breast cancer is commonly seen in middle-aged or older women, but we are seeing younger women with breast cancer too. Even if you are young, it does not mean that you are safe from breast cancer."
Dr Uma Dangi, Consultant Medical Oncology

It is often said that men don't suffer from breast cancer. But according to WHO, approximately 0.5 to 1 percent of breast cancers occur in men.

Dr Kaushik says that one percent of men can get breast cancer, especially those who have a first-degree blood relative diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer in their younger age, i.e. below the age of 40.

Breast cancer can also pass off in the family.

Dr Kaushik says, "Five to ten percent of breast cancer is hereditary. There can be a genetic mutation and it can pass on to generation to generation."

As per WHO, family history of breast cancer increases the risk, but the majority of women diagnosed with it do not have a known family history of the disease.

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