The facts and fiction of Breast Cancer

Susannah Hickling

With so much information out there surrounding the disease it's hard to know what's true and what's false. We reveal the facts...

Tiredness is a symptom of breast cancer | Fiction

Tiredness is a symptom of breast cancer | Fiction Feeling shattered is not a sign that you have a tumour in the breast. What’s significant is a lump or other changes to your boobs, in particular, in the size or shape, to the texture of the skin or to the nipple—for example, its position. Liquid coming from your nipple, a rash or redness of the skin, and frequent pain are other warning signs. Fatigue is more of a side-effect of breast cancer treatment.

 

You can reduce your risk of breast cancer | Fact

Some risk factors you really can’t change—like being over 50, female and having a significant family history of breast cancer. But beyond that, there’s a lot you can do to lower your risk. It’s mostly about lifestyle. Keeping to a healthy weight, exercising, not drinking or smoking, and limiting the length of time you take the pill or HRT will help cut your chances.

 

Breast cancer is the biggest killer of women | Fiction

Not so. It does feature in the list of the ten most common causes of death in women. But more women die of dementia and Alzheimer’s than anything else, and heart disease, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, flu and pneumonia all kill more women than breast cancer, which accounts for 3.7 per cent of female deaths.

Cancer of the breast kills more people than any other cancer | Fiction

In fact, lung cancer is a bigger killer of women and men, and deaths from prostate cancer have recently overtaken deaths from breast cancer. The good news is that deaths from breast cancer are in decline, with the mortality rate dropping by ten per cent. Screenings and new, better treatments are paying off.

 

You have to check your breasts in a particular way | Fiction

You absolutely don’t have to check them at a particular time or using a particular technique. It’s more important to know what’s normal for you. Check your breasts regularly, making sure you feel the armpits and up to the collarbone as well. You can do this in the shower, in bed or while applying body lotion. It’s up to you.

 

Most breast changes are benign | Fact

Breast changes happen a lot and most are not cancer. Benign cysts are common as women get older. They can be painful but breast pain, whatever the cause, is rarely a sign of cancer on its own. Other breast conditions that can occur as you age might seem alarming but, once diagnosed, can be left alone. One example is duct ectasia, where the milk ducts shorten and widen. It can cause a watery or blood-stained discharge, a lump behind the nipple and pain. The nipple might even be pulled inwards. The important thing is to see a doctor if you experience any changes at all, so that anything sinister can be ruled out.