Busting Breast Cancer Myths

More than 270,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Of those, 40,410 are expected to die.

These are the hard facts about breast cancer, but on the first Monday of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, "Good Morning America" teamed up with Self magazine to bust some of the myths surrounding breast cancer.

Lucy Danziger, the magazine's editor in chief, reminded viewers of the "Three A's" to fighting breast cancer -- awareness, action and advocacy. She also debunked several myths surrounding breast cancer, including:

Worry only if breast cancer is in your family

• Father's family history doesn't count

• Mammograms prevent breast cancer

• Deodorants cause breast cancer

• If you have breast cancer, you will need a mastectomy

• Breast cancer is an emergency

Worry only if breast cancer is in your family. No more than 10 percent is hereditary, so just because it's in your family doesn't mean you're doomed. But family history is relevant. Be sure to give your doctor a complete family history, and if there is breast cancer in your family, get yearly mammograms if you're over 40.

Father's family history doesn't count. A diagnosis in your dad's family is just as important as one in your mother's. And on either side, a diagnosis before menopause means the cancer is more likely to be hereditary. After menopause, the possibilities regarding the cause of the cancer expand.

Mammograms prevent cancer. Mammograms don't prevent cancer, but they are the best diagnostic tool because they alert doctors to changes in your breast. Women should begin having mammograms at 40. But if there's a history of breast cancer in your family, your doctor may recommend starting earlier.

Deodorants cause breast cancer. If you've received that chain e-mail, delete it. There might be confusion because women are told not to wear deodorant when they are having a mammogram because particles in the deodorant might show up on the mammogram and cause confusion when the specialist is evaluating the test.

If you have breast cancer, you will need a mastectomy. More and more women are electing to have a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. If the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, surgeons can get all the cancer cells with a lumpectomy. Some women may have to have radiation as well. The outcome could be as successful as a mastectomy.

Breast cancer is an emergency. A diagnosis is frightening, but you shouldn't be paralyzed by fear. The vast majority of women who are diagnosed have plenty of time for a second and third opinion. There are great treatment options with early detection. Women must be proactive; they are consumers as well as patients and have to do their homework about their options. But with early detection when cancer is confined to the breast only, the survival rate is 98 percent.

Awareness, Action, Advocacy

Self magazine and Estee Lauder founded the Pink Ribbon campaign in 1992 to help raise awareness and funds for breast cancer. Since then, thousands of companies have followed suit, developing pink products whose sale benefit various cancer reserach foundation. The following is a partial list of products available to help cancer research:

• Clarins Colour Gloss, $19; Nordstrom. 15 percent benefits the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

• Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss, $7; at drugstores. $1 benefits National Breast Cancer Coalition.

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