Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties, breast cancer made up 45 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in 2015.
“As prevalent as breast cancer is, there is still misinformation and conflicting information about how to manage the disease and how important it is to be screened regularly,” said Keith Goldstein, MD, of the Samaritan Cancer Program. He dispels some common myths about breast cancer.
If I do a breast self-exam, I don’t have to be as diligent about a mammogram.
Not all professional organizations agree about the importance of breast self-exams or the frequency of mammograms. A lot depends on your age, family history and own personal risk factors, which your doctor can help you untangle.
But one thing is absolutely true — a self-exam or even a clinical exam does not replace a regular mammogram. Mammograms can detect breast abnormalities before you can feel them.
“Talk with your doctor about when you should start a regular mammogram screening schedule,” said Dr. Goldstein. “Mammography is also the most important tool we have to catch breast cancer early, when it is most treatable.”
In fact, the American College of Radiology reports that mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by 30 percent since 1990.
An MRI exam is better than a mammogram.
A mammogram is an X-ray, which uses a low dose of radiation to view the breast tissue. MRI uses radiofrequency pulses to create an image, which is noninvasive and doesn’t affect the tissue in any way. MRI creates excellent images and is often used for women who have a high probability of breast cancer. However, the procedure is expensive and typically not covered by insurance.
“An MRI is helpful to view potential breast cancer, but it also has a high rate of false positives,” said Dr. Goldstein. “It is often a case of more care but not always better care. Health care technology is always changing but right now mammograms are the gold standard in breast cancer diagnosis and not a lesser form of care.”
I’m not at risk if I don’t have a family history.
According to the American College of Radiology, three-quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history and are not considered high risk.
“Having a family history is certainly a risk, but unfortunately breast cancer is just not that predictable,” said Dr. Goldstein. “Regular screening is the best way for women to manage the potential of breast cancer.”