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Debunking Mammogram Myths

Updated: Apr 10

Myth: Mammograms don’t help detect breast cancer.


Fact: Regular screening mammograms can find tumours that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. They are the best way to detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable.


Myth: If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you don’t need a mammogram.


Fact: Over 80 percent of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. It’s important for all women to get regular screening mammograms, regardless of family history.


Myth: Mammograms hurt – a lot.


Fact: While everyone feels pain differently, mammograms only cause temporary discomfort. Compression (flattening) of the breast tissue is needed to get the highest quality image, but is not harmful for your breast.


Myth: I shouldn't get my mammogram because they use radiation


Fact: Mammograms use x-rays, which do involve very low-dose radiation. However, with today's improved technology, there is absolutely no concern regarding dose since the amount received is less than half that from natural sources.


Myth: ‘ Breast pain is a symptom of breast cancer’


Fact: That's rarely the case; breast cancer, especially early breast cancer, usually does not cause pain and may exhibit no noticeable symptoms. Most aches, pains or tenderness can be attributed to things like fibrocystic breast changes and the rise and fall of hormones, or a benign fluid-filled sac (a cyst), which can feel firm or squishy and can be aspirated by a doctor to withdraw the fluid causing the pain.


Myth: ‘Monthly self-exams don't make a difference’


Fact: Despite recent advice discounting the importance of regular breast checks, many experts still believe in them. Mammography, clinical exams, MRIs: they're reliable screening methods, yet none of them is perfect, so it's wise to increase your chance of early detection by becoming familiar with your own breasts and reporting any changes, like lumps, swelling, dimpling or discharge to your doctor.


Myth:  ‘Older women don't need to get mammograms’


Fact: Since the incidence of breast cancer increases with age, older women should get mammograms indefinitely. The highest incidence of the disease is in women in their 70s. The risk is approximately 1 in 23 for a woman in her 30s; rising to 1 in 8 by the time she is 85.


Myth: ‘A lump is the only sign of breast cancer’


Fact: While a lump may indicate breast cancer or other benign breast conditions, there are other changes that could indicate cancer, like skin irritation or dimpling; swelling, nipple retraction or discharge (other than breast milk); redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin. Lymph nodes under the arm might swell if the cancer has already spread before a tumor in the breast is even large enough to be felt. And a mammogram can pick up a cancer before any symptom is felt or seen at all.


Myth: ‘Ultrasound of the Breasts used instead of Mammography’


Fact: Ultrasound is NOT recognized as a screening tool as it is not sensitive to picking up micro-calcification, the commonest sign of early breast cancer. In fact ultrasound only picks up 11 out of 100 early breast cancers whilst digital mammography now picks up 85-95 of those 100 early breast cancers. Ultrasound used in the under 30 year olds since breast cancer is almost unheard of at that age


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