Abortion, implants, and - could needle biopsies promote breast cancer?

There are way too many myths about breast cancer – but some of them are all too common. Below we discuss some of them related to breast implants, abortions, and whether needle biopsies may cause the cancer to spread. We also address how family history of breast cancer affects one’s own risk.


“An abortion increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer”

Where does the myth come from?

A woman’s risk for some types of breast cancer is related to levels of certain hormones in the body. Additionally, breast cancer risk can be affected by a number of things that alter these hormone levels. Concern about a possible link between abortion and breast cancer has been raised because abortion is thought to interrupt the normal cycle of hormones during pregnancy. Some believe that this interruption might increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

The reality behind the myth  

Researchers have investigated the possible link between abortion and breast cancer for many years, but this has been a difficult area to study. Numerous studies have found no conclusive evidence. Among those studies, the most recent ones consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.


“You can’t get a normal mammogram after breast implants”

Where does the myth come from?

Breast implants can interfere with the detection of breast cancer, because the implants can obscure the mammography image of a tumor. Implants therefore have the potential to delay the diagnosis of breast cancer.

The reality behind the myth

Women with breast implants should have regular mammograms. However, they also need to tell their medical team before starting the mammogram – because it may be hard for the doctor to see certain parts of the breast.


“Needle biopsies promote cancer spread”

Where does the myth come from?

There are some reports claiming the spread of malignant cells can follow a breast tumor biopsy. This has been reported for lung, thyroid, brain and pancreatic tumor biopsies as well. However, these reports are very rare and there is no need for patients to be concerned about biopsies, researchers suggest.

The reality behind the myth

There's no conclusive evidence for this claim. Despite some previous concerns, a recent Mayo Clinic's study dispelled the myth that cancer biopsies cause cancer to spread, showing also that patients who received a biopsy had a better outcome and longer survival than patients who did not have a biopsy.


“If someone in my family had breast cancer, I will most certainly develop breast cancer, too”

Where does the myth come from?

A strong family history means having at least two close blood relatives (e.g. mother, sister, daughter, cousin or aunt) on the same side of the family (mother's or father's) affected by breast cancer, often with their diagnoses occurring at a young age (less than 50).

The higher risk can be associated with inherited factors - specifically, the presence of mutations in genes associated with breast cancer. Two known genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2. It is thought that inherited mutations in genes such as these account for 5%-10% of all breast cancer cases. Even though inherited gene mutations can play a part in breast cancer risk, there are women with a strong family history (and a higher risk) who do not carry known gene mutations.

The reality behind the myth

It is true that if a woman has a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer, their own risk of breast cancer is approximately twice the normal. On the other hand, more than 80% of women with a close relative with breast cancer will never develop it themselves.

Furthermore, although women with family history of breast cancer have higher risk, most women who have breast cancer actually have no family history. It is estimated that only 1 in 10 women with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.  


Other sources include Health.com and British Columbia Cancer Agency.

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