Doctors address myths about breast cancer

COVID-19 vaccines have no link to disease

Thelma Grimes
tgrimes@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/18/21

Dr. Lisa Wynn said every year as she treats women, she always hears the list of misconceptions and myths that are not only tied to breast cancer, but also the screenings to detect the disease. No …

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Doctors address myths about breast cancer

COVID-19 vaccines have no link to disease

Posted

Dr. Lisa Wynn said every year as she treats women, she always hears the list of misconceptions and myths that are not only tied to breast cancer, but also the screenings to detect the disease.

No matter what is out there on social media, Wynn, OB/GYN and service line chief for women’s services at UCHealth at the Highlands Ranch Hospital, said it is important that women get regular mammograms starting at the age of 40 and that any woman of any age who has unusual symptoms in the breasts should get a screening scheduled immediately through their regular-care physician.

Here are some myths and facts regarding breast cancer awareness:

COVID-19 and breast cancer

This year, besides having to address the common myths associated with breast cancer, Dr. Laura Hafertepen, a breast surgical oncologist with the Medical Center of Aurora, said COVID issues have popped up.

Wynn and Hafertepen said some women are under the misconception that getting the vaccination can cause breast cancer. Both doctors said there is no evidence that is happening anywhere.

What is true, Hafertepen said, is that the vaccination can cause a woman’s lymphnodes to swell. Wynn and Hafertepen said they both experienced swelling after getting the recommended vaccinations.

The expert female doctors said women should be vigilant in scheduling mammograms around getting vaccinations. Wynn said either get the mammogram before getting the vaccination or schedule the annual screening a month after the shot.

Skipping screenings because of COVID

Since early 2020, COVID misconceptions and concerns have caused an increase in women skipping regular breast cancer screenings and pap smears. Even as restrictions have eased, women have still been hesitant to get caught up on recommended screenings.

Wynn said while she is getting caught up with her regular patients, some have still missed appointments.

Wynn said screening clinics are some of the safest in the area with regular sanitizing and only the office staff and screening technicians in the room.

Wynn said getting recommended screenings is vital to catching breast cancer in the early stages.

Nipple discharge is not normal

Wynn said a common misconception is that nipple discharge can be explained and not necessarily a symptom of breast cancer. Unless a woman is breast feeding, any kind of nipple discharge is not normal and should be discussed with a physician immediately, she said.

Besides being a symptom of breast cancer, Wynn said, nipple discharge can be a direct symptom of a brain tumor.

Self-exam recommendations are evolving

For decades, Wynn said, women were told to do the monthly self-exam to feel for lumps, masses or unusual changes inside the breast. Now, Wynn said doctors promote more of a “breast awareness” approach.

Wynn said women should be vigilant in knowing their breasts. Besides feeling for lumps, Wynn said it is important to keep tabs on a breast’s appearance. Unusual dimpling is a subtle breast cancer symptom, she said. Inverted nipples are a symptom.

Red patches or skin issues that look like an orange peel can also be a cause for concern.

There is not always a lump

As Wynn stressed in being breast aware, lumps are not the only symptom of breast cancer.

Breast cancer symptoms can include bleeding from the nipple, a white nipple discharge or dimpling or change in shape of the outside of the breast.

In some instances, a lump is not present because the disease is in the early stages, which is why screenings are important in finding the issues that cannot be seen or felt in a regular self exam, Wynn said.

Family history isn’t all

Over the years, women have been under the misconception that if breast cancer does not run in the family, they are not at risk of getting the disease.

On the contrary, doctors warn that anyone can get breast cancer, including those following a healthy diet and lifestyle and those who have not had any direct family ties to the disease.

To see more myths and facts about breast cancer, visit breastcancer.org.

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