10 Breast cancer myths

Things you shouldn't hear from your doctor, and what to do if you do.
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Too young

As you undergo clinical breast exams, it's important to remember you know your body better than any doctor. If you've heard any of the following comments from your doctor, consider seeking a second opinion -- or another physician.

"You're too young to have breast cancer."

According to the American Cancer Society, about 75 percent of women who get breast cancer are age fifty or older. But it's estimated that 9,000 American women, aged forty and younger, will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. "And by and large, younger women have more aggressive tumors," says Susan Miesfeldt, M.D., director of the Cancer Genetics Clinic at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, in Charlottesville.

Doctors recommend that all women begin breast self-exams at age twenty. "It's a way to become familiar with what's normal for your breast tissue," says Miesfeldt.

In 1998, the American Cancer Society (ACS) revised its guidelines and made forty the age when women should begin having annual mammograms. "Before, we were recommending mammography every one to two years in the forties," says Joann Schellenbach, an ACS spokesperson. But recent Swedish studies found a 30 percent decrease in breast-cancer deaths on average when women in their forties have annual mammograms.

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