Dr. Amy Patel spends a lot of time dispelling myths about breast cancer.
"Unfortunately there's so much inaccurate information out there in social media," said Patel, a breast radiologist and medical director of Women's Imaging at Liberty Hospital, in Liberty, Mo. "So if I can get out there and try to debunk those stereotypes and those myths, I try to take those opportunities when I can."
There are three myths in particular she constantly hears from patients.
No, you cannot get breast cancer from deodorant.
No, that pain in your breast doesn't mean you have cancer.
Yes, you can get breast cancer even if there's no history of it in your family.
Women who experience pain in their breasts sometimes take that as a sign of cancer, she said. "But very little studies show a correlation between breast pain and cancer," she said. "Typically breast cancer, whether you're a man or woman, is painless. And typically, if you have breast pain associated with breast cancer, it's a more pronounced, more advanced cancer where you start to see maybe skin changes and redness of the breast.
"Typically breast pain is hormonally related … in premenopausal women and not associated with breast cancer. So that's one myth we try to debunk. And then deodorant's a big one."
Ah, deodorant. "A lot of times I'll have patients who say they make their own organic deodorant," she said. "And I say, 'Well, you should save your time and money because there's no scientific evidence that shows that commercial deodorant causes breast cancer.' "
Sometimes women skip mammograms and say no to biopsies because no one in their family has had breast cancer and they don't see a need. "I try to tell patients actually, the majority of women who get breast cancer have no family history so it's really important to get that mammogram every year," she said.
Current guidelines say women at average risk should begin yearly mammograms by age 45 — it used to be 40 — and can transition to every other year beginning at age 55, if they wish.
Patel recently championed Missouri legislation that requires insurance companies to pay for more aggressive screening of younger women at high risk of the disease. The new law, which went into effect Aug. 28, requires insurance companies to cover screenings for women ages 25 to 29 if they are at higher risk, as well as screenings every six months from age 30.