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Breast Cancer Detection


What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Some of the symptoms include:

  • A lump or abnormality in the shape or feel of the breast
  • A lump in the underarm area
  • A generalized swelling of all or a part of the breast
  • An irritation or dimpling of the skin on the breast
  • Nipple retraction (nipple turning inward)
  • Rash, redness or scaliness on the nipple or breast skin
  • Spontaneous discharge from the nipple

Please consult your doctor if you are unsure about a symptom.

What do I do if I find a lump?

If you feel a lump or abnormality, see a doctor without delay. Most breast lumps are benign (not cancerous), but any lump should be checked out. Do not delay seeing your doctor because you are scared that you may have breast cancer. Eighty percent of all breast lumps that are biopsied are benign.

If my doctor says "it's nothing" but I still have symptoms, what should I do?

Ask for a diagnostic test (ultrasound, MRI, or mammogram) to confirm that “it’s nothing.” If your doctor will not agree, find another doctor who will listen to you and take your concerns seriously. You know your body better than anyone else.

At what age should I start getting mammograms?

Because young women typically have dense breast tissue, a mammogram is not always the best diagnostic tool for them. For this reason, and because dense breasts also make it more difficult to feel a lump, it is crucial that women aged 20 and older become familiar with their breasts and learn how to spot any unusual changes. Current guidelines call for annual screening mammograms to begin at age 45 or 50. If you have a family history of the disease, consult your doctor about when you should start having mammograms (or other forms of breast cancer screening) and how frequently you should have them. For more information, read our position paper on the new mammography guidelines.

How can I detect my breast cancer early?

The best way for young women to find breast cancer early is to be breast self-aware. Become familiar with your breasts: their shape, size and what they feel like. Learn what is normal for you. Sometimes your breasts may change throughout your monthly cycle. If you are pregnant or nursing, your breasts will change even more dramatically. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor immediately and insist on a diagnosis. In general, women should have a yearly clinical breast examination by a doctor beginning at age 20 and start having annual mammograms beginning at age 45.

Is family history of breast cancer important?

Yes. While only 5-10% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history, it is important to know your family's history of cancer, if any, both on your mother's side and your father's side. Women with at least one close family relative (mother, sister or daughter) should start a screening program with a breast specialist when they are ten years younger than their relative's age at diagnosis, but usually not before 20 years old.

Can I get breast cancer if it doesn't run in my family?

Breast cancer can happen to anyone. Having a family history increases your risk, but 80% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

What is the incidence of breast cancer in young women?

Despite the prevailing opinion that young women don't get breast cancer, the reality is that they can and do. In fact, one in every 229 women between the ages of 30 and 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the next 10 years. Learn more about statistics on breast cancer in young women.

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