Debunking some common myths about breast cancer

Despite being one of the most common cancers, breast cancer is still surrounded by many misconceptions.

In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which falls in October, Dr Wong Chiung Ing, chair of the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) medical advisory panel and a medical oncologist at Parkway Cancer Centre, separates fact from fiction.

Myth: All lumps in the breast are cancerous

Most breast lumps are actually not cancerous. However, it is still important to get them evaluated if you are unsure.

Myth: Underwired bras give you breast cancer

There is no evidence to suggest that underwired bras cause cancer.

Myth: Breast cancer is contagious

No. Cancer develops due to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in our body. It is not from an external source.

Myth: Annual mammograms increase the risk of cancer

With the latest technology, the radiation dose of a mammogram is extremely low, amounting to four to six months of natural background radiation. There has been no proven case of breast cancer arising from mammograms.

Myth: Breast cancer happens only in middle age

It can happen at any age. In fact, 11 per cent of all breast cancer diagnoses occur in women below the age of 45, and the disease tends to be more aggressive in young women.

According to a report last year by BCF, one in six cases in Singapore was diagnosed in women younger than 45, and it is one of the most common cancers among women under 35.

It is therefore crucial to be vigilant of the symptoms, do a breast self-examination regularly and start screening at 40.

Myth: Only women get breast cancer

It can also occur in men, but the incidence of male breast cancer is less than 1 per cent. The risks of developing male breast cancer include increasing age and a strong family history of cancer.

This article was first published in Her World Online (