Misconceptions about breast cancer are widespread. Here are a few of the most common breast cancer myths.

Myth: If I get breast cancer, I'm going to die.

Truth: The chances are that you probably won't. Today, about 98 percent of breast cancer patients are still alive after five years, and the 10 year survival rate is 85 to 90 percent. The earlier you discover breast cancer, the better chance you'll catch it before it spreads, when treatment is usually successful.

Myth: Breast cancer kills more women than any other disease.

Truth: Heart disease and lung cancer kill far more women than breast cancer. In fact, heart disease is the single leading cause of death in American women, and twice as many women die of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular disease than all forms of cancer.

Myth: Men don't get breast cancer.

Truth: Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen. In 2009, 1,910 men and 192,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Myth: Participating in clinical trials helps others, but doesn't help me.

Truth: As a participant in clinical trials, you receive outstanding medical care, even if you're in the control group. If the new treatment is effective, you will be one of the first to benefit from it. Many patients like taking an active role in their own healthcare and appreciate that their participation in clinical trials may also help others.

Myth: If I have a lump, it must be breast cancer.

Truth: A corollary to this myth is that breast cancer always presents as a lump. Most lumps are benign cysts or changes in breast tissue, not breast cancer, and mammograms detect most cancers before they are large enough to feel. Be alert for other changes in the breast that may indicate breast cancer. See your physician immediately if you experience:

  • Breast pain
  • Nipple tenderness or discharge
  • Change in size or shape of a breast
  • Nipple or skin that turns inward
  • Scaly, red or swollen skin

Myth: Women with small breasts don't have to worry about breast cancer.

Truth: Cancer develops in the cells that line ducts or lobules, which make milk and carry it to the nipple. All women have the same number of ducts and lobules, regardless of the size of their breasts.

Myth: Trauma or injury to the breast causes breast cancer.

Truth: An injury may cause a lump, but it does not cause breast cancer. What typically happens is that an injury causes you to pay attention to your breast and seek medical treatment. So, if you have breast cancer, you're more likely to discover it.