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Five common misconceptions about cancer in women

Health By Vivianne Wandera
Avoid self-diagnosis and visit your doctor if something is out of the ordinary (Photo: Shutterstock)

A cancer diagnosis can be frightening and changes one's life forever. However, there are many misconceptions about what causes cancer in women, especially breast cancer and a lot of women have fallen for these lies and diagnosed themselves.

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Before assuming that you have cancer just because of a small rash or a lump that you have felt in your breast, see a doctor for a correct diagnosis.

These are some of the most common misconceptions about what causes cancer in women.

1. Bras cause cancer

The theory behind these claims revolves around an explanation that bras block the circulation of lymphatic fluid causing your breasts to well with toxins.

It is highly unlikely however that lymph fluids can be trapped in an underwire because the fluids do not flow in that direction and a bra that fits properly prevents the breast ligaments from overstretching.

In a 2014 study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre, there was no link found between wearing bras and cancer and many other respected cancer research institutes have supported these facts that wearing a bra does not in any way put women at risk of getting breast cancer.

If your bra is painful, you should consider get it measured properly to ensure that it fits you perfectly and not panic that you have cancer.

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2. Mammograms can cause cancer

Cancer, just like any disease, when discovered early can be treated and this reduces the risk of one dying from cancer by 25 percent.

According to scientists, the benefits of mammograms are greater than any risks linked to them. A yearly mammogram that takes about 20 minutes involves very little exposure to radiation, which is less than what one is exposed to when getting an X-ray. Thus, it is impossible for radiation treatment to result in cancer.

3. Antiperspirants increase risk of getting cancer

Several studies dispute this theory but also admit that more research on the matter needs to be done. Parabens, which are used as preservatives in some antiperspirants and tend to have weak oestrogen-like properties were found in one study in small samples of breast cancer tumours.

There was no cause and effect in the study between breast cancer and parabens and the study did not identify the source of the parabens found in the tumour.

Another study published in 2002 by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute studied 1,606 women and found that there was no link whatsoever between the use of antiperspirant and cancer.

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Another study carried out in 2006 compared women who were with and without breast cancer and found that 82 percent of women without cancer has used antiperspirant as opposed to 52 percent of women who had cancer. These findings do not support the theory that using antiperspirant increases a woman's risk of getting cancer.

Regular self-checks can help detect cancer early (Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Breast cancer must be in the form of a lump

A lump in your breast could mean you either have breast cancer or any benign breast condition that is not cancerous. This does not mean that upon feeling a lump it should be ignored, lumps in the breast should be taken seriously as they could mean something more serious and advanced.

Look out for other signs like thickening of the nipple or breast skin, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain and nipple retraction, formation of scales, discharge that is not milk and redness.

Consider getting a mammogram often as breast cancer can also spread to the underarm lymph nodes and cause a swelling there before a tumour in the breast is large enough to be felt.

5. After a mastectomy, you can never get cancer

Even though some women get breast cancer even after getting a mastectomy, this does not mean that every woman who has a mastectomy will get cancer.

Most women who get cancer after a mastectomy get it at the site of the scar or the original cancer may have spread further than the doctors had discovered.

A woman's risk of getting cancer after a mastectomy is reduced by an average of 90 percent meaning the chances are very minimal that the cancer will recur.

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