A disease like breast cancer can be a mortal battle fraught with overwhelming stress and devastating physical and emotional impact. Confronting breast cancer is made even more difficult when fictions get caught up with the facts. Here’s a myth-busting look at breast cancer risks:

Myth: Breast cancer only affects older women.
Fact: Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. Although it most often strikes women between ages 55 and 65, women of all ages should be diligent about screenings and be aware of their risk factors. “Diagnosing breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage is difficult in young women whose breast tissue is generally denser than that of older women, making mammogram and physical exam unreliable. There is also the common belief among young women that they’re simply too young to develop the disease, says Dr. Gale England, an Advocate Medical Group breast surgeon,” said Dr. Gale England, an Advocate Medical Group breast surgeon, Downers Grove, Illinois.

Misinterpretation: 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer.
Fact: Your risk increases as you get older. It’s more accurate to say 1 in 8 women who reach the age of 80 can expect to develop breast cancer. “In each decade of life, the risk of getting breast cancer is actually lower than 12 percent for most women,” according to BreastCancer.org.

Q: Do breast self exams save lives?
A: “The use of breast self exams is controversial, technically they do not save lives as a self-exam-detected cancer is going to be bigger than one detected mammographically,” England said. “That being said, I always encourage my patients to perform self breast exams. They may detect subtle changes, especially in younger women, where mammograms are less sensitive.”

Myth: Most breast lumps are cancerous.
Fact: Eight out of 10 lumps that women may feel in their breasts are not cancerous, according to BreastCancer.org. “A benign lump can be a collection of normal or hyperactive breast gland cells, or it may be a water-filled sac (cyst),” according to its website.

Myth: Men don’t get breast cancer.
Fact: Yes, men do get breast cancer, but it is not common. The chance of a man getting breast cancer is 100 times less than women, England said.

Myth: Mammograms prevent breast cancer.
Fact: Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer, but they are a screening tool that will detect cancer that is already in the breast. “They are tools for early detection which improves survival,” England said.

Myth: Only people with a family history of breast cancer are at risk.
Fact: “Most women who get breast cancer do not have a family history. Only 20 percent of new breast cancer cases are related to heredity,” England said.

Myth: A family history of breast cancer matters only on the mother’s side.
Fact: It’s now know that a history of breast cancer in the women on a father’s side is just as relevant as a woman’s family history on the mother’s side. Hereditary breast cancer can be passed down from the father’s side, according to BreastCancer.org.

Myth: Wearing an underwire bra increases your risk of getting breast cancer.
Fact: There is no scientific evidence that wearing an underwire bra causes “breast cancer by blocking the drainage lymph fluid cause breast cancer by blocking the drainage of lymph fluid from the bottom of the breast so it can’t get back into your body,” according to BreastCancer.org.

Myth: The mortality rate from breast cancer is the same for African American women than for Caucasian women.
Fact: White women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but African American women are more likely to die from it, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition. About 118 of 100,000 African American women are diagnosed compared to 128 white women and 88 Hispanic women. The mortality rate for breast cancer for African American women is about 33 per 100,000 women compared to 24 for white women and 16 for Hispanic women.
“One reason for the difference in mortality among African American women may be that young African American women are disproportionately affected by triple-negative breast cancer. There is no targeted treatment for this subtype,” the Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 website reads. This type of cancer lacks certain receptors and cannot be controlled by drugs like tamoxifen that target those receptors. The website continues, “There are fewer effective treatment options for these patients, however it appears that chemotherapy may be more effective in this type of breast cancer.”

True or false: Fewer people are dying from breast cancer now than in the past.
True: Breast cancer mortality rates are declining, which is good news but 40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Between the years of 1930 and 1990, breast cancer death rates changed little between but decreased 27 percent from 1990 to 2005. Between 1994 and 2003, the mortality rate for women of all races combined declined by 2.4 percent annually. In white women, breast cancer mortality declined by 2.5 percent annually. In black women, mortality declined by 1.4 percent annually during the same period.

Myth: Breast cancer is preventable or If you’re at risk, there’s little you can do to prevent breast cancer.
Fact: While breast cancer is not preventable, there are things a woman can do to lower her risk such as losing weight if she’s obese, getting regular exercise and limiting alcohol consumption. Some factors that increase the risk of breast cancer are mostly uncontrollable such as age, personal and family breast cancer history, genetic factors, first menstrual period before age 12, menopause after 55, breast density and race, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.