Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease.
Men also get breast cancer, but it is not very common. Less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.
Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age
Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that if you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.
What Are the Symptoms?
There are different symptoms of breast cancer and some people have no symptoms at all.
Symptoms can include:
- any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- pain in any area of the breast
- nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood)
- a new lump in the breast or underarm
If you have any signs that worry you, see your doctor right away.
How Can I Lower My Risk?
Most women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors and no history of the disease in their families.
There are things you can do to can help lower your breast cancer risk:
- Keep a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week)
- Get enough sleep
- Don't drink alcohol or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day
- Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens)
- Try to reduce your exposure to radiation during medical tests like mammograms, X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans
- If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you
- Breastfeed your babies if possible
Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat.
Talk to your doctor about which breast cancer screening tests are right for you and when you should have them.