Breast cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer for women

Your risk of breast cancer increases if you:

  • Are age 50 or older 
  • Have a mother, sister or daughter who has had breast cancer 
  • Started your period before age 12 
  • Started menopause after age 55 
  • Had your first child after age 30 
  • Have no children 
  • Are overweight or obese after menopause 
  • Had a biopsy showing abnormal changes 
  • Have had breast cancer before

What you can do to prevent and treat breast cancer

Living healthy is an important way to prevent breast cancer. But you're still at risk even if you do all the right things. That's why early detection is so important. When cancer is found and treated early, you have a better chance of healing.

Consider these tips for early detection:

  • Talk with your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts such as lumps, change in size of your breast, discharge from the nipple or change in color/texture of the skin on or around your breast.
  • Get regular checkups as necessary. Mammograms should be done every one to two years for women age 40 or older. Begin at 30 if you're at high risk.

Tips to help prevent breast cancer:

  • Develop healthy habits. Limit alcohol. Eat low-fat foods and lots of fruits and vegetables. Try to stay close to the weight your doctor says is right for you. Exercise regularly.

  • Stop smoking. When it comes to cancer, tobacco remains the single biggest risk. Smoking is responsible for at least a third of cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

  • Breastfeed. If you plan to have a baby, breastfeeding can help lower the risk of breast cancer.

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will likely recommend a combination of treatments depending on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer and your overall health. Common ways of treating breast cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy.

How to talk to your doctor

Make sure you know your risk factors and follow the tips for early detection. Be sure to:

  • See your doctor right away if you notice: 
    • A lump or thickening on or near your breast 
    • A change in the size or shape of your breast 
    • Discharge from your nipple 
    • A change in the color or texture of the skin on or around your breast 
  • Tell your doctor about your risk factors to find out if you should get mammograms more often.