Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer in the United States is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, regardless of race or ethnicity. Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breast, like the ducts or the lobes.
There are different warning signs for breast cancer such as a lump, swelling, redness, pain, or nipple discharge. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all. A person may find out they have breast cancer after a routine mammogram.
Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. Three main tests are used to screen the breasts for cancer.
- Mammogram: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. A screening mammogram should be done every two years between the ages of 50-74. Women age 40–49 years should talk to their doctor about when to have a mammogram.
- Clinical breast exam: A clinical breast exam is an examination by a doctor or nurse, who uses his or her hands to feel for lumps or other changes.
- Breast self-exam: A breast self-exam is when a woman checks her own breasts for lumps, changes in size or shape of the breast, or other changes in the breasts or underarm (armpit).
The best way to find breast cancer is with a mammogram.
- Getting older
- Being younger when you first had your menstrual period
- Starting menopause at a later age
- Being older at the birth of first child
- Never giving birth
- Not breastfeeding
- Personal history of breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases
- Family history of breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter)
- Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest
- Being overweight (increases risk for breast cancer after menopause)
- Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone combined)
- Having changes in the breast cancer-related genes BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Drinking alcohol (more than one drink a day)
- Not getting regular exercise
True or False?
- Men can get breast cancer – TRUE. More than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Men should be aware of any changes and consult a doctor.
- Family history of breast cancer means you will get it – FALSE. While people with a family history of breast cancer are at higher risk for developing breast cancer, they are not 100% guaranteed to get breast cancer. Regular check-ups with doctors and breast exams are important for early detection if you do have family history.
- The gene mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2 in your DNA means you will definitely develop breast cancer – FALSE. Women who inherit this gene mutation are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer, but not guaranteed to develop it. Preventative measures can help reduce this risk if you are carrying one of these gene mutations. Work with your doctor about options that are best for you.
- All Women Count! (inancial assistance for Pap tests and mammograms to women who meet income and age guidelines)
- American Cancer Society
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health