Breast Cancer: What You Need To Know

With the news this morning that Renee Zellweger had a cancer scare back in 1996, we started thinking about just how many female celebrities have battled breast cancer in the last few years — it’s been almost as frequent as the number of those having twins! Christina Applegate, Sheryl Crowe, Melissa Etheridge, Edie Falco, Olivia Newton John, Cynthia Nixon, Robin Roberts, Kylie Minogue, and Elizabeth Edwards are among the many women in the news who have battled breast cancer and it really indicates how many more women NOT making headlines are facing the disease themselves. According to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure, nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year and about 40,000 women will die from the disease. With that in mind, I wanted to compile a list of must know information for women about breast cancer — when to get checked out, what to look for, what your personal risk is, etc. Check it out, after the jump….FACTS:
1. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the U.S. and is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women aged 40 to 59.
2. In the U.S., White women get breast cancer most often, followed by black women, Asian women and Pacific Islander, Hispanic women and Native American women. However, black women are most likely to die from breast cancer, followed by white women, Hispanic women, Native American women, Asian women and Pacific Islander women.
3. There is no known cause of breast cancer, but there are risk factors that may increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. Some risk factors can be controlled, while others can’t.
4. Not having children or having a first child after age 30 increases the risk of breast cancer. Current or recent use of oral contraceptives causes a slightly higher risk, but the increased risk declines when they are stopped and returns to normal after ten years.
5. A woman’s exposure to estrogen over her lifetime influences the risk of developing breast cancer. Having a first period before age 12 or entering menopause at age 55 or older increases a woman’s exposure to estrogen and increases her risk.
6. Women of higher socioeconomic status have an increased risk. It is suspected that it may be related to lifestyle factors such as not having children, having fewer children, having children later or not breastfeeding.
7. Men can get breast cancer. About 2,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men this year and over 400 will die from breast cancer. For every one man diagnosed with breast cancer, there are 100 women diagnosed.

Strong Increase:

  • Family history of breast cancer in more than one relative.
  • Personal history of cancer.
  • High breast density.
  • Moderate Increase:

  • Family history of breast cancer in one family member.
  • Not having children, or having children after 35.
  • High bone density.
  • Radiation exposure or frequent X-rays during youth.
  • High levels of blood estrogen.
  • Weak Increase:

  • First period before age 12.
  • Consumption of 1-4 alcoholic drinks per day.
  • Current or recent use of birth control pills.
  • Being tall.

  • If you’re at low risk for breast cancer and are below the age of 40, you should still give yourself a self-exam once a month. Breasts are generally kind of lumpy, so doing a self-exam often is essential in detecting any changes in your breast tissue — those change could indicate a problem. Head on over to to find out exactly how to give yourself a self-exam.
  • Visit your gynecologist not just for an annual pap smear but also to get a clinical breast exam for your doctor. That would also be a good time to point on any lumps or sensations that you might have noticed. At the very least, you should get a clinical breast exam every three years if you’re under the age of 40.
  • Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk.
  • What To Look/Feel For:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away