With everything we know about breast cancer, there’s a lot we don’t know. I didn’t know as much as I wish I had when I was diagnosed and there were many things I wrongly assumed. So this is the first in a series about the myths of breast cancer based on my experience.
The fear of a family history of breast cancer is powerful. We are saddened by stories about generations of families struck by breast cancer. We are shocked to hear women, like Angelina Jolie, who choose preventive mastectomies because they carry an abnormal breast cancer gene. It's scary to see statistics that having a mother, daughter or sister with breast cancer almost doubles a woman’s risk.
Those stories and statistics were all I heard before I got breast cancer so I thought most women with breast cancer had a family history of the disease. Since my diagnosis I’ve talked to many women who thought the same.
The reality is only about 5-10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary, caused by gene mutations passed on from a parent to child. In other words, most women who get breast cancer do NOT have a family history of the disease.
The majority of breast cancer cases are completely random and caused by changes that occur throughout your life due to aging, environment and lifestyle. A woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer over an 80-year lifespan— the greatest breast cancer risk is old age.
I don’t mean to be a downer or scare the bejeezus out of you— okay, maybe a little— but I do want you to know that it CAN happen to you.
Know your family health history. Get your mammograms. Learn about the risks of breast cancer. And most importantly, put your health first. We CAN reduce the risks of breast cancer by being healthier. Are you eating healthy foods? Sleeping well? Exercising? Are you stressed? Believe me, all those things on your to-do list are not as important as taking care of you.
Now take 5 minutes to get schooled on breast cancer risk factors and how to reduce your risk: