Doctor discussing X-ray results with patient in clinic.
woman consulting with a doctor

Breast cancer is a complex disease. Even among patients with shared characteristics of the illness, no two profiles are the same, and no two treatment plans are the same.

In this article, we will debunk 4 breast cancer myths that seem to gain traction but hold no grounding. Whether it is related to the risk factors of cancer, or they are uncertainties and inaccuracies related to breast cancer grade vs stage, it is essential to review them to ensure that the right information is shared among patients, carers, and the general population.

Myth 1: Only older women can get breast cancer.

One of the more common myths is that only older women can get breast cancer, or only women of a certain age can get the disease. However, that is entirely a myth. Women under the age of 40 can be diagnosed with breast cancer, though at much lower rates than those over. According to Susan G Komen, a non-profit organisation based in the United States, about 4% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the US are younger than 40.

Nevertheless, the myth may come from a miscommunication of a truth surrounding age and breast cancer. Indeed, the older a woman is, the more likely she is to get breast cancer, as the organisation states that the median age of diagnosis was 63 for women from 2016 to 2020. So, while increasing age is a risk factor for the disease, it is not the only risk factor, and this should be noted.

Myth 2: Only women can get breast cancer.

Another myth that is widely circulated on- and offline is that only women can get breast cancer. This is untrue. While breast cancer in men is rare, there can be abnormal cell growth in the breast tissues of men too, and breast cancer can occur, grow, and spread like any other cancer if left untreated.

Of course, the chances of women getting this disease is much higher than men. The American Cancer Society reported that breast cancer is about 100 times less common in men than it is in women. Nevertheless, male breast cancer can occur, and typically does between the ages of 60 and 70 for males.

Discussing the possibility of male breast cancer and destigmatising it is important. Not only is it factually inaccurate to claim that men cannot get breast cancer, but it can lead to setbacks in advocacy for male breast cancer patients.

Men are not screened for breast cancer like women are, so any changes to the breast should be checked by a doctor. Not all men experience symptoms, but the first sign of cancer is typically a lump that feels like a hard knot in the chest. This can then be further examined with breast imaging and a breast biopsy.

Myth 3: A lump in your breast indicates breast cancer.

The third myth is that any change in appearance or feel of the breast points to cancer. Logically, perhaps we know this to be untrue, but it is typically the conclusion that people jump to when they suspect something is wrong.

The truth is that a lump in your breast is not necessarily indicative of breast cancer. According to Nebraska Medicine Omaha, only about 10 to 20% of lumps are cancer. The rest are benign, such as cysts. Still, it would be beneficial to have the lump checked out by a doctor to rule out the possibility.

Additionally, it is essential to note that breast cancer might not cause a lump that can be felt. This is especially true when it first develops – and by the time a lump is felt, the cancer may have already moved beyond the breast and spread to the lymph nodes. Therefore, the most reliable diagnostic tool is mammography.

Myth 4:Wearing underarm anti-perspirant leads to breast cancer.

Finally, a popular myth is that wearing deodorant in the underarm area causes breast cancer, especially those that contain aluminium and other chemicals. The myth is that these chemicals are absorbed in the lymph nodes and can make their way to breast cells, increasing the risk of cancer.

Another popular theory around the use of deodorants is that they clog your underarm pores and prevents sweating. When a person is unable to sweat, the toxic substances from the underarm lymph nodes are not released, which leads to an increased risk of cancer as well.

According to, studies have shown no evidence of a connection between wearing underarm antiperspirant and breast cancer, regardless of its ingredients. For deodorants with aluminium, however, when used regularly, may lead to high concentrations of aluminium in the breast tissue, which doctors may warn against.

Be aware of breast cancer – and get regular screenings

There is plenty of information, whether they are accurate or inaccurate, on breast cancer out there. Debunking these myths can help everyone learn more about the nature of the disease and what is and is not true. It can also start the conversation and raise awareness on this cancer, which is among the most diagnosed among women globally. Indeed, women regardless of age should endeavour to fit regular screenings into their schedule, as early diagnosis of breast cancer can lead to better prognosis and potentially better patient outcomes.