Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in American women (lung cancer is first). Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except skin cancer. Breast cancer occurs in men also, but the number of cases is small. Be sure to call your health provider if you notice any changes in how your breast or nipple looks or feels, including lumps, discharge, and changes in your breast’s skin, size, or shape.
Recommendations: Early Detection of Breast Cancer
- Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s. See information on self exams (PDF)
- Physical breast exam by a health professional about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40
- Physical breast exam by a health professional each year for women 40 and over
- Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their healthcare provider.
- If you think you might have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, see information about our high-risk care program.
The American Cancer Society recommends that some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.
Know Your Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor, but having one doesn’t mean you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer, either. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Our center offers evaluations and monitoring for those at higher risk of developing breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute includes these risk factors for breast cancer:
- Older age
- Early age at menarche (menstruation)
- Older age at first birth or never having given birth
- A personal history of breast cancer or benign (non cancer) breast disease
- A mother, sister, daughter, or father with breast cancer
- Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest
- Taking hormones such as estrogen and progesterone
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Certain ethnic backgrounds
Nutrition for Breast Health
Anything that impacts your general health also impacts your breast health. Reduce your cancer risk by practicing these common guidelines for overall physical condition. In fact, many of these tips are practical for other conditions you might have or risk developing, such as diabetes:
- Stay away from tobacco.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get moving with regular physical activity.
- Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink (if you drink at all).
- Protect your skin.
- Know yourself, your family history, and your risks.
- Have regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, physicians at Mary Jo Cropper Family Center for Breast Care at Bethesda North Hospital.