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Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer among American women. It’s estimated that the average American woman’s risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime is around 12 percent. This 12 percent risk describes an individual woman’s chance of developing breast cancer at any point in adulthood, usually up to age 80 or 85. Who is at risk? The main risk factors for breast cancer are biological gender and age. Most breast cancers are found in individuals who were assigned female at birth and are 50 years of age or older. Other risk factors include family history, breast density, and use of hormone replacement therapy. Lifestyle factors—like being overweight, smoking, or not being physically active— can also contribute to your risk. Signs of breast cancer:

The symptoms of breast cancer vary from person to person. Some people exhibit multiple signs, while others show no symptoms at all. Common warning signs include:

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm. (Remember, not all lumps are cancer.)
  • Any changes in the size or shape of your breasts.
  • Pain in any area of your breast.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).

If you are worried you may have breast cancer, see your doctor right away.

Stay current on breast cancer screenings Breast cancer screenings are designed for healthy people who don’t have symptoms. Screenings can’t prevent breast cancer, but they can help you find cancer early—when it’s easier to treat. Mammograms are the most commonly used screening tool. They can detect tumors that are too small to feel. Ask your doctor when you should have a mammogram.

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