Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women, other than skin cancer. Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer.
Breast cancer is:
- The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.
- The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
In 2004,† 186,772 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,954 women died from the disease.‡
Men can also get breast cancer. In 2004,† 1,815 men were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 362 men died from the disease.‡
There are different kinds of breast cancer. The kind of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breast, like the ducts or the glands (or lobule
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), it is estimated that about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. The exact causes of breast cancer are not known. However, studies show that the risk of breast cancer increases as a woman gets older. This disease is very uncommon in women under the age of 35. Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50, and the risk is especially high for women over age 60. Also, breast cancer occurs more often in white women than African American or Asian women.
Early Detection Is a Woman’s Best Defense
The best defense is early detection with regular mammograms and manual breast self-examinations, which have raised survival rates. Women who are at average risk of developing breast cancer and who do not have a significant family history of breast cancer should have a mammogram and clinical breast examination by a health care provider every year. These annual mammograms and exams are very important to finding breast cancer at the earliest opportunity, when treatments can be most successful and chances of survival are best. There are three main tests used to screen for breast cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about which tests are right for you, and when you should have them.
- Mammogram – A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Women in their 40s and older should have mammograms every 1 to 2 years. Women who are younger than 40 and have risk factors for breast cancer should ask their healthcare provider whether to have mammograms and how often to have them.
- Clinical breast exam – A clinical breast exam is an examination by a healthcare provider who looks for differences in size or shape between your breasts, and checks for any rash, dimpling, or other abnormal signs.
- Breast self-exam – You may perform monthly breast self-exams to check for any changes in your breasts. It is important to remember that changes can occur because of aging, your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, or taking birth control pills or other hormones. Breast self-exams cannot replace regular screening mammograms and clinical breast exams.
Note: Mammograms (as well as dental x-rays, and other routine x-rays) use very small doses of radiation. The risk of any harm is very slight, but repeated x-rays could cause problems. The benefits nearly always outweigh the risk. You should talk with your health care provider about the need for each x-ray. You should also ask for shields to protect parts of your body that are not in the picture.
No one knows the exact causes of breast cancer but some women with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop cancer. Below are some of the risk factors you should keep in mind.
Note: If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss this concern with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce your risk and can plan a schedule for checkups.
Reduce Your Risk
Many risk factors can be avoided. Others, such as family history, cannot be avoided. Women can help protect themselves by staying away from known risk factors whenever possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
For children and adolescents, regular physical activity has beneficial effects on the following aspects of health:
This is just a brief overview. For more information, check out these resources:
Read these publications online or order them from FCIC.
Resources In Other Languages*:
* Names of resources and organizations included in this online article are provided as examples only, and their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by the Federal Citizen Information Center or any other Government agency. Also, if a particular resource or organization is not mentioned, this does not mean or imply that it is unsatisfactory.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. The CDC is also the federal agency that issues health advisories and warnings to the American public. Please visit the CDC website for up-to-date health information on diseases and conditions and recent outbreaks and incidents.
Phone: 1.800.CDC.INFO (1.800.232.4636)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
You may also wish to view additional contact information.