Breast Cancer and You:
When breast cancer starts out, it is too small to feel and does not cause signs and symptoms. As it grows, however, breast cancer can cause changes in how the breast looks or feels. Symptoms may include—
A new lump in the breast. A lump that has changed.
A change in the size or shape of the breast.
Pain in the breast or nipple that does not go away.
Flaky, red, or swollen skin anywhere on the breast.
A nipple that is very tender or that suddenly turns inward.
Blood or any other type of fluid coming from the nipple that is not milk when nursing a baby.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to a health care professional. They may be caused by something other than cancer,
but the only way to know is to see a health care professional.
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer. The breast is made up of three main parts: glands, ducts, and connective tissue.
Sometimes breast cells become abnormal and grow faster than normal cells. These extra cells form a mass called a tumor. Some tumors are "benign," or not cancerous. Other tumors are "malignant," meaning they are cancerous and have the ability to spread to other parts of the breast and body and disrupt normal functions in those areas.
Who gets breast cancer?
All women are at risk for breast cancer. Men can also get breast cancer, but this is rare. Not counting skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all major racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Among Hispanic women, it is the most common cause of death from cancer, and it is the second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaska Native women. In 2007 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 202,964 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,598 women died from the disease.† Although more white women get breast cancer, more black women die from it.
How can I prevent it?
Scientists are studying how best to prevent breast cancer. Ways to help lower your risk of getting breast cancer include—
Stay physically active by getting regular exercise. Maintain a healthy weight.
Avoid using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or find out the risks and benefits of HRT and if it is right for you.
Limit the amount of alcohol that you drink.
What raises a woman's chance of getting breast cancer?
Several factors may affect your risk of developing breast cancer, including—
Not having children, or having your first child later in life.
Starting your first menstrual period at an early age.
Beginning menopause at a late age.
Having a personal history of breast cancer or certain benign breast diseases, such as atypical ductal hyperplasia.
Having close family relatives (such as a mother, sister, father, or daughter) who have had breast cancer.
Having a genetic condition, such as certain mutations in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
Having been treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest. Being overweight, particularly after menopause.
Using hormone replacement therapy for a long time. Using oral contraceptives.
Being physically inactive.
†U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2007 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2010. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/uscs.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
What You Should Know About Getting a Mammogram
Is there a test that can find breast cancer early?
Mammograms are the best tests for finding breast cancer early. Mammograms are a series of X-ray pictures of the breast that allow doctors to look for early signs of breast cancer,
sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. When breast cancer is found early, treatment is most effective, and many women go on to live long and healthy lives.
When should I get a mammogram?
Most women should have their first mammogram at age 50 and then have another mammogram every two years until age 74. Talk to your health professional if you have any symptoms or changes in your breast, or if breast cancer runs in your family. He or she may recommend that you have mammograms before age 50 or more often than usual.
What happens if my mammogram is abnormal?
If your mammogram is abnormal or more tests are required, do not panic. Many women need additional tests, and most are not diagnosed with cancer. An abnormal mammogram does not always mean you have cancer. It does mean that you will need to have some additional X-rays or other tests before your doctor can be sure. Other tests may include an ultrasound (picture taken of the breast using sound waves) or a biopsy (removing tissue samples to be looked at closely under a microscope). You may be referred to a breast specialist or a surgeon, because these doctors are experts in diagnosing breast problems.
What should I expect during a mammogram?
The mammography machine is a special X-ray machine. One of your breasts will be placed on a plate. Another plate will press down on your breast from above. The plates will hold your breast still while the X-ray is being taken. These steps are repeated to get a view of the other breast.
The plates are then turned to get side views of each breast.
Although getting a mammogram only takes a few minutes, you will feel some pressure while the plates are pressing on your breast. Most women find it uncomfortable, and a few find it painful. What you feel depends on the size of your breasts, how much your breasts need to be pressed to get a good view, the skill of the technologist, and where you are in your monthly menstrual cycle, if you are still having periods.
After getting your mammogram, the technologist will check to make sure your X-rays are of good quality. They cannot read the X-ray or tell you the results. A radiologist will read your mammogram. You may receive results immediately, or they will be sent to you and your doctor within a few weeks. If your mammogram is abnormal, you will likely hear from the facility earlier. If you do not receive your results within 30 days, you should contact your health care provider or the mammography facility.
Where can I find more information about breast cancer?
1.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 1-800-CDC-INFO or http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/
2.National Cancer Institute: 1-800-4-CANCER or http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast
3.American Cancer Society: 1-800-ACS-2345 or http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/
Where can I find a free or low-cost mammogram?
If you have a low income or do not have insurance and are between the ages of 40 and 64, you may be able to get a free or low-cost mammogram through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program in your community. To learn more, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp.