Myths of mammogram & breast cancer
Get the lowdown and get screened.
There are a number of myths surrounding a mammogram and breast cancer. Let’s take a look at the myths and truths:
On a mammogram:
1. MYTH: One mammogram is enough. If my mammogram results are normal, I am safe from breast cancer.
TRUTH: A mammogram result will only show you the state of your breast at the point of screening. Hence, it is important to go for regular screening and to do monthly breast self-examinations.
2. MYTH: Mammograms or biopsies can cause the cancer to spread.
TRUTH: Mammograms and biopsies help detect and confirm the diagnosis of breast cancer. There is no scientific evidence to show that they can cause the spread of cancer.
3. MYTH: Radiation from mammograms are harmful to our bodies and can cause breast cancer.
TRUTH: The amount of radiation in mammograms is very low and is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposed during five return flights to London from Singapore.
4. MYTH: A mammogram is too painful and causes more harm than good.
TRUTH: Some pressure needs to be exerted so that no abnormalities are missed. Most women have shared that the pain is tolerable. To reduce discomfort, go for your mammogram seven to 10 days after the start of your period.
5. MYTH: My friend told me that I only need to start going for mammograms when I am 55 years old.
TRUTH: According to MOH Cancer Screening Guidelines:
- All normal risk, asymptomatic women 50 to 69 years of age should be screened with mammography every two years.
- Women at normal risk aged 40 to 49 years should consult a doctor about the benefits and limitations of going for a mammogram at this age. If screening is to be performed, it should be done annually.
6. MYTH: Breast self-examination or breast ultrasound can replace a mammogram.
TRUTH: Breast self-examination and breast ultrasound can complement but NOT replace a screening mammogram. The mammogram is still the most reliable way to detect breast cancer early.
On breast cancer:
1. MYTH: Breast cancer only runs in the family, if nobody in my family has had breast cancer before, I will not get it.
TRUTH: Seventy-five to 80 percent of women with breast cancer have NO family history of breast cancer.
2. MYTH: I eat and live healthily, and limit my alcohol intake. I do not need to worry about breast cancer.
TRUTH: A healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of breast cancer but factors such as age, obesity, and family history are important as well. Breast cancer screening is still recommended in all women from age 50.
3. MYTH: Breast cancer always causes a lump that you can feel.
TRUTH: Breast cancer in the very early stages (Stage 0 or Stage 1) often cannot be felt and are only detected through mammograms.
4. MYTH: All breast lumps are cancerous.
TRUTH: Nine out of 10 lumps are found to be benign (non-cancerous).
5. MYTH: Breast cancer is a death sentence.
TRUTH: With early detection, breast cancer need not be a death sentence. The five-year survival rates of breast cancer could be as high as 90 percent, if detected and treated early. Up to a third of breast cancers are diagnosed in the advanced stages. Mammogram screening can help women detect breast cancers at an earlier stage.
** The above has been contributed by the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore; Breast Cancer Foundation; Health Promotion Board; National Cancer Centre Singapore; and Singapore Cancer Society.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS))