Myth:  Young women (under 35) do not get breast cancer.

Fact: Breast cancer is more likely to occur in a woman older than 35, but it can occur in very young women.  Any lump found at any age needs professional evaluation by a physician.

Myth:  Women with high risk factors (family history, no children, etc.) are usually the ones who will have breast cancer.

Fact: 76 percent of women who have breast cancer had none of the risk factors.  Being female is the highest risk factor. All women are at risk.  Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. Only about 13 percent of women diagnosed have a first-degree female relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer.

Myth:  Breast cancer is not painful; fibrocystic breast condition is what causes the pain.

Fact:  Breast cancer is usually not associated with pain.  However, 11 percent of women with breast cancer experienced pain as a symptom.  Any breast pain needs thorough evaluation by a physician.

Myth:  A mammogram that is without signs of cancer ensures that no cancer is present.

Fact: Mammography is a good diagnostic tool, but it has limitations.  There are some lumps that you can feel but are not seen on mammography even though it is able to detect lumps that are too small to be felt.  Ten percent of breast cancers never form a lump that can be felt or seen on mammography.  It is important to recognize the clinical signs of breast cancer that produce changes in the breast.  Because mammography does not detect 10 to 15 percent of cancers, breast self-exams and clinical exams by a healthcare provider must be performed in conjunction with mammography to ensure that a woman receives every method of detection available.  Other diagnostic tools that are used for detection of abnormalities are Tomosynthesis/3D Mammography, Ultrasound and MRI.

Myth:  Breast cancer occurs as a single lump and in one breast at a time.

Fact:  A very small percentage of breast cancers occur with multiple lumps (multi-centric) and occur in both breasts.  As always, any lump. Multiple lumps in one breast, or lumps in both breasts should be fully explored by a healthcare provider.

Myth:  Redness, pain or bloody discharge are only signs of mastitis (inflammation/infection) in new mothers.

Fact:  Mastitis is a common occurrence in the young mother, but if, after treatment with antibiotics, the symptoms do not improve or disappear, the patient should be evaluated further.  Breast cancer in the young woman can cause the same the symptoms as mastitis.

“Early-stage breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. Catching it early is key.”

Certified Breast Health Navigator, Cary Ralph, R.N., explains why it’s so important for women to get a mammogram every year.