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Breast Cancer

A picture of several women all wearing pink and lined up behind one another; all wearing pink ribbons

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from cells in the breast. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. Although rare, men can also develop breast cancer.

Some risk factors for breast cancer may include:

Age: Most breast cancers develop in adults over the age of 50.

Family history: The chance of developing breast cancer increases when immediate family members have had breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.

Personal history: Women who had cancer in one breast have an increased risk of developing cancer in another area of that same breast or in the other breast.

Reproductive history: Women who began menstruating before 12, who experienced menopause after 55, who were pregnant for the first time after age 30 or never had children can be at an increased risk.

Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol can slightly increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.

Weight: Being overweight is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Medical History:

  • Taking a hormonal replacement therapy can increase the chance of developing breast cancer.
  • A person may have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer if they have received radiation to the chest or breast, before the age of 30.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms are different for each patient. It’s important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your physician. They may include:

  • Abnormal lump in the breast or underarm.
  • Skin changes to the breast such as redness, scaliness, thickening, swelling or tenderness.
  • Changes in the nipple such as pain, nipple turning inward or abnormal discharge.

Screening & Diagnostic Testing

Women are encouraged to discuss their personal and family history with their physicians to best determine when breast screening should begin and to determine the type of screening. For women of average risk, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends a mammogram annually beginning at the age of 40. If you have a family history of cancer, your screening may start at an earlier age.

A complete physical exam and medical history should be done. The exam will check for any unusual physical signs. A complete medical history is also important to fully understand a person’s health habits, family history, previous illnesses, and past exposure. Additional testing may include:

Helpful Patient Resources:

We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary and it is an emotional time for the patient and their families. It is very important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your oncologist. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, that you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we’ve listed some below.

National Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer - Patient Version

American Cancer Society

Breast Cancer

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Guidelines for Patients