Myths and facts

There are a lot of rumours about breast cancer and breast screening which are not true. It is not always easy to know what the facts are. Here we look at some common myths and give you the facts…

  • MYTH: A lump is the only sign of breast cancer

    FACT: There are many different symptoms which could be signs of breast cancer. Visit our guide to breast awareness to find out what changes you should look for.

  • MYTH: I should monitor a symptom for a while before going to see my GP

    FACT: Most breast changes are not cancer, but it is vital that you see your GP straight away if you notice any new changes to your breasts. Cancer may not make you feel unwell — you should go straight to your GP even if you feel fine and have no other symptoms.

  • MYTH: I need to check my breasts on the same day every month

    FACT: You should check your breasts whenever it is convenient and comfortable for you to do so.

  • MYTH: I do not need to go for breast screening because I check myself regularly

    FACT: Breast screening is able to detect cancers in their very early stages, before it is possible for you to see or feel them. If cancers are found early, treatment is likely to be much more successful. By the time you have a symptom, the cancer is likely to be more advanced and more difficult to treat.

  • MYTH: If you receive a breast screening invite before your 50th birthday, it means you have a high risk of breast cancer

    FACT: The Humberside Breast Screening Service is taking part in a nationwide trial. The trial means that we will sometimes invite women as young as 47. If you are aged under 50 and you receive an invite, it means that you have been selected as part of the trial. It does not mean that you are at high risk of developing breast cancer.

  • MYTH: NHS breast screening is not available to women over 70

    FACT: We routinely invite women up to their 70th birthday. If you are aged over 70 and still want to be screened, you can fill in a self-invitation form at your GP surgery. This form will be sent back to The Humberside Breast Screening Service and we will contact you with an appointment.

  • MYTH: The breast screening procedure is very painful

    FACT: Most women find mammography uncomfortable, but only a few find it painful (a study by the European Society of Radiologists found that only 1% of women described the procedure as ‘very painful’). The procedure only takes a few minutes and each breast is only compressed for a matter of seconds.

  • MYTH: The NHS only wants me to be screened because they get paid if I attend my appointment

    FACT: Your GP does not receive any money if you attend your mammogram appointment. Similarly, the Screening Service and the Hospital Trust do not get paid based on screening attendance figures.

  • MYTH: The NHS Breast Screening Programme does not reduce a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer

    FACT: A study was conducted in Canada in the late 1980s and found that annual screening does not save lives. This study was conducted a very long time ago and its findings are not relevant to the NHS Breast Screening Programme. More recent studies have shown that the NHS breast screening programme saves around 1,400 lives every year.

  • MYTH: If I am diagnosed with breast cancer I will have to have my whole breast removed

    FACT: Cancers found early can often be treated with minor surgery. This means that we can take out the cancer without having to remove the whole breast. Early cancers are also less likely to need chemotherapy treatment.

  • MYTH: Breast cancer always runs in the family

    FACT: Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. If there is no history of breast cancer in your family, you should not assume that you will not be at risk. You will still have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. Find out more about family history.

  • MYTH: One of my relatives had breast cancer, so I am more likely to get it myself

    FACT: Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women in the UK. Many people have at least one relative with breast cancer. Having breast cancer in your family does not necessarily mean that you are at an increased risk. Find out more about family history.