Breast surgeon Yolanda Tammaro, M.D., knows her patients may be running the gamut of emotions when they step into her office for the first time.
The most prevalent and natural mindset among her new patients, Dr. Tammaro says, is also the most important one to dispel: Fear.
“It’s completely understandable and natural to be afraid of breast cancer. The problem arises when you start making important health decisions based on those fears - instead of on facts,” Dr. Tammaro says.
“And the most important way to combat that fear is through education. We’ve all heard it before, but it couldn’t be truer: Knowledge is power. So empower yourself with the correct information from sources you can trust - American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen - to help you sort out the facts from the myths, and the information from the misinformation."
MYTH ONE: Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family, so I’m not at risk.
“This is one of the most common examples of misinformation I hear all too often from new patients: ‘Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family, so I’m probably safe.’ Wrong,” Dr. Tammaro says. “The fact is, the majority of breast cancer is not hereditary."
According to Tammaro, “just being a woman puts you at risk,” and instead of focusing on genetics, women should be proactive when it comes to risk factors they can control.
MYTH TWO: I’m powerless over breast cancer.
Tammaro advises all women to empower themselves against breast cancer with healthy choices and habits aimed at reducing proven lifestyle-related risk factors.
These habits include:
• Getting enough exercise
• Limiting alcohol consumption
• Not smoking. (Or quitting, if you’re already a smoker.)
• Maintaining a healthy body mass index
MYTH THREE: A lump in my breast means I have cancer.
While the majority of breast lumps aren’t cancer, it’s important to have any lumps, changes or abnormalities looked at by a doctor. Being aware and proactive when it comes to breast health includes diligence and commitment to self-exams and regular mammograms. Although mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, they do save lives by detecting breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable.
“Remember, as women we’re all at risk, and none of us face it alone. We share the same worries - and the same fears,” says Dr. Tammaro. “We can only cure fear with understanding, education and awareness. And once we eliminate fear, we clear the way for hope.”