Health Magazine

Breast Cancer is an Equal Opportunity Disease

Posted on the 26 June 2013 by Jean Campbell

For the past fourteen years, ever since my first breast cancer, I have continued to speak with women and men who shared that knew almost nothing about breast cancer until it touched them or a loved one directly.

To them, it was a disease that others got. They were protected, or so they thought, based on the myths they chose to believe about breast cancer.

The myths helped them feel safe in their denial.  Breast cancer and its treatment,  which often strikes at a woman’s self image, is too ugly for many women to think about, let alone learn about, unless and until they have to. Unfortunately that level of denial may carry a heavy price tag.

As a patient navigator, I met and spoke with thousands of women and a few men with breast cancer. Sometimes we met immediately after the doctor had shared a breast cancer diagnosis. Others I met privately with  in  the chemo or radiation waiting areas. Being a survivor gave me instant credibility. Even the most resistive to talking would eventually open up because they wanted reassurance from someone who had “been there.”

breast cancer
Time and again patients would share what they believed about breast cancer. Some of these myths kept them from getting medical care when their cancers were small. The myths I often heard went like this, as did my answers:

  • No one in my family ever had breast cancer. I don’t need to get mammograms. Yes, you do! Every woman is at risk for breast cancer as she ages. Most woman who get breast cancer have no known family members who had breast cancer
  • Men don’t get breast cancer… although rare, men do get breast cancer
  • Breast cancer is a punishment from God…breast cancer is a disease, not a punishment
  • Touching myself to do a breast exam is wrong…no, it can save your life
  • Breast cancer is a shame in my culture…there is nothing to be ashamed of, you did not give yourself breast cancer
  • I got breast cancer because I am so stressed…stress doesn’t give you breast cancer
  • Young women don’t get breast cancer…they do; not as frequently as older women, but they do
  • Breast cancer jumps from one breast to the other…not true
  • If I take radiation, I can’t be around anyone because I will be radioactive…not true
  • I got breast cancer because I wore bras that had under wires…not true
  • If I get chemo my hair will fall out and not grow back…your hair will grow back

Please make a commitment to help to dispel the myths about breast cancer. Breast cancer is an equal opportunity disease. It does not discriminate socially, racially, culturally, or economically. It isn’t just a disease of older women, it is also a disease that impacts the young, the healthy, the ones who eat right and exercise.

Those of us whose lives have been touched by breast cancer need to spread the word; we need to dispel the myths whenever and wherever we can. We know, like few others do, that until there is a cure, early intervention is the best hope for surviving breast cancer.

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