In the United States, October is celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is the color used to symbolize this month, and by now, you’ve no doubt seen it everywhere: stores, labeled onto your favorite products, and even on the jerseys of pro football players. It’s both a month-long national health campaign and reminder for women to be mindful of early detection. With so much ongoing research and coverage on the disease compared to other cancers, you’d think by now certain misconceptions would be thoroughly debunked. Yet, many myths remain that often lead people to assume something inaccurate about the disease, including these three myths:
1. Men don’t get breast cancer
While women are 100 times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, men are not exempt. Men have breast tissue too, and thus can still develop the disease. To put things in perspective, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000 men. In 2013 alone, there will be an estimated 2,240 new cases of invasive breast cancer among men. However, because of the general lack of awareness about breast cancer risk in men, some individuals may delay visiting their doctor. As a result, men are often diagnosed when the disease is more advanced.
2. Ethnic groups have a higher risk of being diagnosed
To clarify, there are actually several variations of this myth. The first variation is that Black and Latino women are diagnosed with the disease the most. In truth, white women are more likely to get diagnosed, while Black and Latino women are more likely to die from this disease. Conversely, there’s the myth that Asian women don’t have to worry about breast cancer altogether. While diagnoses for Asian women is the lowest for any ethnic group, the number of cases has increased 1.2% every year since 1988. To get even more specific, Japanese American women have the highest breast cancer rate, and the disease is the leading cause of death among Filipino women.
Statistics do shed light on diagnoses rates among all groups, but taking the necessary health precautions is always important.
3. Young women don’t have to worry about the disease
Like myth number one, statistics help conclude that cases among young women are also considerably low. Breast cancer risk increases with age, and only one in eight invasive cancer diagnoses is found in women under 45. Yet, more young women who come forward to discuss their experience give this message loud and clear: no one is immune from the disease. Anything alarming should be spoken about with a physician, even if your age is atypical for certain conditions.
There are many other myths that circulate around the disease, but these three are perhaps the most well known. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not simply about celebrating survivors and remembering who passed from the disease, but to also remind ourselves of the ongoing research and prevention efforts that need support today. While the celebration will round out by November 1 and the pink will be put away, what many survivors advocate can be applied year-round: live as healthy a lifestyle as possible, and learn to understand your body as each year passes.
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