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Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is the second-deadliest cancer among American women (the first is lung cancer). Other than adopting a healthier lifestyle, early detection with regular mammograms remains the single most effective way for combating the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, women diagnosed with breast cancer that has not spread outside the breast have a higher survival rate. Steady declines in breast cancer mortality among women since 1989 have been attributed to a combination of early detection and improvements in treatment. 


  • In the U.S., one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • An estimated 232,430 new diagnoses of invasive breast cancer in U.S. women and 2,240 in men are expected this year.
  • In 2013, breast cancer is expected to claim the lives of 39,620 women and 410 men in the U.S.
  • In Texas in 2013, an estimated 17,128 new cases of breast cancer were expected in men and women, with 2,991 deaths.

Risk Factors 

  • Age: Approximately two-thirds of invasive breast cancers occur in women over age 55.
  • Family History: Women with immediate family members (grandmother, mother, or sister) who have had breast cancer are at a greater risk of developing the disease. If you have a family history of cancer, genetic testing may help determine risk.
  • Diet and Exercise: Overweight and/or physically inactive women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Symptoms and Signs 

The signs for breast cancer are not the same for all women, and some women show no signs in early stages. If any of the following symptoms or signs are present, women are encouraged to consult their physician immediately for evaluation:

  • A lump in the breast
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Redness or skin texture changes
  • Dimpled skin near the breast
  • A lump under the arm
  • Tenderness
  • Nipple retraction
  • Nipple discharge
  • Irritation on the breast, nipple, or skin near the nipple
  • Swelling of the breast


Breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, but there are steps women can take to decrease their risk and/or improve early detection of the disease.

  • Screening
    • Women should begin monthly breast self-exams in their 20s. Any changes in their breasts should be reported to a physician immediately.
    • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years. Women age 40 and older should consider annual clinical breast exams. Women age 50 and older should have an annual clinical breast exam.
    • Women over 40 should consider annual mammograms, and women over 50 should have annual mammograms.
    • Women in their 30s should discuss their breast cancer risk level with a physician to determine the most appropriate breast cancer screening options, including mammograms and MRI screenings. Women 40 and older should consider an annual MRI screening, if recommended by a physician.
  • Lifestyle
    • Regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy body weight may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Higher Risk
    • Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss genetic testing with their physician. If genetic tests indicate a woman is BRCA-positive, there are a number of risk reduction strategies to discuss with her physician.
    • Women with a first degree relative who had breast cancer before age 50 should begin receiving mammograms 10 years before reaching that relative’s age at diagnosis.

Treatment Options 

Anyone with breast cancer should consult with a medical oncologist to determine their specific treatment needs. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, bone-directed therapy, or hormone therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and Texas Cancer Registry