Breast Cancer Facts

Risk Factors
Breast cancer risk factors include:

  • Sex - breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
  • Race - Caucasian women develop breast cancer slightly more often than African-American women.
  • Older age - 2 out of 3 women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
  • History of breast cancer - if you've had cancer in one breast, you're at an increased risk of having it in the other breast.
  • Family history - having a parent, sibling or child with breast cancer increases your risk.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for breast cancer and what you can do about them.

Symptoms
Breast cancer often causes no symptoms in its early stages. Women with early breast cancer usually don't have pain or notice any breast changes. It is important to routinely screen for breast cancer because it can likely be detected in its earliest stages. As cancer grows, it can cause symptoms such as:

  • A lump, thickening, or swelling in or near your breast or under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Nipple discharge
  • Nipple inversion
  • Nipple or breast pain
  • A change in the look or feel of the skin of your breast or nipple

It's important to see your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms.

Diagnosis
If your doctor thinks you might have breast cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to confirm the diagnosis. You may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Mammogram
  • Ultrasound
  • Breast MRI
  • Biopsy

    A biopsy removes tissues or cells from the breast to test under a microscope. A biopsy is the only way to know if cells are cancerous.
    Types of breast biopsy include:

    • Fine needle aspiration biopsy - a very thin needle is placed into the lump to remove a small sample of fluid or tissue.
    • Core needle biopsy - a larger needle is guided into a lump to remove small cylinders of tissue.
    • Surgical biopsy - a surgeon removes part or all of the lump through an incision in the breast.
    • Lymph node biopsy - a needle biopsy is done on a lymph node to check for abnormal cells.
  • Nipple discharge exam
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