About Breast Cancer
First Sign of Breast Cancer
The first sign of breast cancer is usually a lump in the breast, sometimes accompanied by other changes in the appearance of the breast such as:
- Dimples or puckering of the skin
- A discharge from the nipple
If a lump is diagnosed as cancer at this early stage, it can be removed and the area treated so the cancer doesn't spread. If left untreated, the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Many women are afraid of breast cancer because they fear losing a breast. This is a natural worry, but it can lead to dangerous delays in seeking treatment. It may help to keep in mind the following facts about breast cancer:
- Three out of four breast lumps are not cancerous
- Small lumps can be easily removed
- Improvements in surgical technique help women retain a more natural appearance after breast surgery
The risk factors for breast cancer are as follows:
- Being a woman
- Over age 40
- Personal or family history
- Have never had children
- Had first child after age 30
- Began menstrual cycle at an early age or stopped at a late stage
Guidelines & Resources
American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (X-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. They also should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.
If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, discuss mammography screening guidelines and scheduling with your health care provider.
Click here to download our Resource for Getting Ready for a Biopsy.