What You Need To Know About Breast Cancer 6 Common Misconceptions

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Breast cancer affects 1 out of every 19 women in Malaysia. It is one of the most common forms of cancer that affects Malaysian women. Think about the number of women you know in your life — if you know more than twenty, there’s a chance that one of them has or knows someone who has breast cancer.

According to the Breast Cancer Foundation Malaysia, Chinese women reported the highest number of breast cancer patients at 59.7 per 100,000, followed by Indian women at 55.8 per 100,000, and Malay women at 33.9 per 100,000. However, no studies have been conducted yet to understand why.

Bar graph of cancer incidents in Malaysia


Early detection and getting the appropriate medical attention at the right time can help save lives. In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness month this October, let’s take a dive into debunking the few most common misconceptions about breast cancer.

1. Only older women get breast cancer.

This is possibly one of the biggest misconceptions the public has about breast cancer.

According to the Breast Cancer Foundation Malaysia, nearly 64% of reported breast cancer patients were in the age group of 40-60. It’s quite rare for women under the age of 40 to develop breast cancer, but it’s not impossible, especially if she has other high-risk factors like late pregnancy or family history.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network lists the following age-related factors that are associated with the highest risk for development of breast cancer:

  • Aged 65 years or older
  • Late menopause after age 55
  • Personal history of early breast cancer before age 40
  • First full-term pregnancy after age 35
  • Ionising radiation exposure before age 30

2. I’m not at risk if it doesn’t run in my family.

While it’s true that genetics play a role in hereditary breast cancer, there are many other causes of breast cancer that aren’t related to genetics, such as your lifestyle, diet, and physical weight. Nearly 80% of the women who get breast cancer have no known family history of the disease.

On the other hand, just because your family has a history of breast cancer, it doesn’t mean for sure that you will also develop breast cancer, although the risk is higher. states that approximately 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be inherited through abnormal genes from the parent. If your mother or sibling has breast cancer, then the probability of you getting breast cancer doubles.

If you think that you’re only at risk if your mother’s family has a history of the disease, think again. also states that the defective gene can be inherited from the paternal family too. It’s best if you keep track of both your maternal and paternal health histories, just to be on te safe side, and check yourself often if you’re in the high-risk group for developing breast cancer.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

3. Men can’t get breast cancer.

Breast cancer happens when the lobules (milk-producing cells) in the breast tissue turn abnormal and start dividing uncontrollably. Both men and women are born with breast tissue, even though it doesn’t develop any more for men during puberty. However, this means that men can also develop breast cancer, albeit very uncommonly.

There are 3 types of cancer that could happen to men. They are ductal carcinoma (most common), lobular carcinoma (extremely rare), and inflammatory breast cancer. Men account for approximately 1% of all breast cancer patients, so there’s no need for you to go rushing for a mammogram just yet!

Risk factors for developing male breast cancer include the following:

  • Aged 68 years or older
  • High oestrogen levels (due to hormone pills or injections, being overweight, or liver disease)
  • Klinefelter syndrome
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Family history of breast cancer or genetic mutations

4. All the lumps in my breast are cancerous.

The easiest way for early breast cancer detection is by self-testing for lumps or swelling under the breast. They are hard and mostly painless, but not all lumps and swelling are cancerous.

Some other conditions that cause non-cancerous lumps include:

  • Fibrocystic changes (an exaggerated response of breast tissue to changes of ovarian hormones)
  • Fibroadenomas (solid lumps of fibrous and glandular tissue that are generally movable when rolled with pads of the fingers)
  • Papillomas (small, wart-like lumps grow in the lining of the mammary ducts, near the nipple)

Of course, the only way to find out for sure is to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to check it out. Nearly 40% of breast cancer deaths are preventable if detected at an earlier stage, so don’t let yourself or your loved ones become part of the statistic!

5. Breastfeeding causes breast cancer.

Photo by bearfotos on Freepik

On the contrary, breastfeeding actually reduces the chances of you developing cancer. There are a lot of researches conducted that confirmed the link between breastfeeding and breast cancer.

While breastfeeding may cause some other painful complications like engorgement of the breasts, blocked milk ducts, and mastitis, it is not a direct cause of breast cancer. In fact, a woman who breastfeeds for at least 12 months (both consecutively and non-consecutively) decreases their risk of developing breast cancer by 4.3%. So, mothers, breastfeeding isn’t just beneficial for your baby, because it could also possibly save your life!

6. I can’t breastfeed anymore after recovering from breast cancer.

You can absolutely continue breastfeeding after you’ve recovered from breast cancer if you feel comfortable with it. There is nothing else more empowering in the world than being able to breastfeed your baby after what you’ve been through. If you’re worried about giving your baby cancer, rest assured that none of the cancerous cells will pass on to your baby when nursing.

If you’ve had a single mastectomy (or lumpectomy), you should still be able to provide enough breast milk for your little one with one breast. However, if you find yourself struggling to supply enough milk, you can always choose to work with a lactation consultant who can help you with that.

If you’ve had a single mastectomy (or lumpectomy), you should still be able to provide enough breast milk for your little one with one breast. However, if you find yourself struggling to supply enough milk, you can always choose to work with a lactation consultant who can help you with that.

Nonetheless, be aware that if you’re undergoing chemotherapy or taking any treatments and medications for it, you shouldn’t be breastfeeding as the drugs will also be present in your breastmilk and they can be passed on to your baby through feeding.

Photo by marijana1 on Pixabay

Remember that even if you can self-discover and detect lumps in your breast, it’s not always a positive diagnosis of breast cancer. Seek help from your doctor if you notice any irregularities on your breasts because early detection saves lives.

To learn even more about breast cancer and how you can go about making a difference in your life and the lives of your beloved ones, visit Breast Cancer Foundation Malaysia.