5 Misconceptions About Breast Cancer, Debunked

February 10, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Bokran Won, M.D. contributes to topics such as Women's Health.

Debra Camal, M.D. contributes to topics such as Breast Surgery.

Breast cancer is more treatable and with better results than ever before, but misconceptions can lead women (and sometimes men), to delay getting the testing necessary to catch it in its earliest and most treatable phases.

“While one in nine women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, it is extremely treatable and easiest to manage when detected on a mammogram,” says breast surgeon and oncologist Debra Camal, M.D., medical director of the Breast Program at Riverview Medical Center.

Here are five things that breast surgeons and oncologists want you to know:

  1. Mammogram screenings are safe. One misconception that keeps people from getting mammogram screenings is that, over time, the radiation used can lead to breast cancer. “Mammography is a safe screening tool that uses low-dose X-ray,” says Bokran Won, M.D., a fellowship-trained, dedicated breast radiologist at the Women’s Center at Riverview. “The radiation dose used for a mammogram of both breasts is about the same amount of radiation a woman would get from her natural surroundings in about seven weeks. I strongly believe the benefits of breast cancer detection far outweigh the very small risk of potential harm from the low dose of radiation of a mammogram.”
  2. There are no silly questions. Dr. Camal says many of her patients have never had any other serious health problems and are afraid to ask questions that may feel very personal and intimate to them. But doctors are accustomed to supporting their patients with solid information to alleviate many of their concerns and have likely heard and answered the question countless times.
  3. A support network is available. Dr. Camal notes that patients can be connected with support groups or Nurse Navigators, who can help them and their families deal with financial, transportation and other support needs they may have.
  4. Mastectomies have come a long way. Lumpectomy is the most common surgical method to treat breast cancer, but at times, mastectomy is required due to the extent of the disease. Advances in surgical techniques have made today’s mastectomies much less physically traumatic than was often the case in the past. When appropriate, techniques such as nipple-sparing mastectomy can result in minimal visible scarring on the reconstructed breast.
  5. Reconstructive surgeries have come a long way, too. Patients can benefit from reconstructive surgeries, like the newer DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap reconstruction that uses tissue from a woman’s lower abdomen to recreate her breasts using her own tissue.

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