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Women and breast cancer

Focused on Health - 2013

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, excluding skin cancer.

breast cancer ribbonIt occurs when cells in the breast grow beyond control. This growth can then cause damage to nearby tissue. 

Breast cancer forms in the tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk).

Know the signs of breast cancer

Breast cancer symptoms may vary from woman to woman. So become familiar with your breasts so you’ll know what feels and looks normal to you.

Common symptoms include:

  • lump or mass in your breast
  • enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
  • changes in breast size, shape, skin texture or color
  • skin redness
  • dimpling or puckering
  • nipple changes or discharge
  • scaliness
  • nipple pulling to one side or a change in direction

Many breast changes – including lumps – are not cancer. But if you notice one or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks, see your doctor.

READ ALSO: Lumpy or dense: Your “breast” defense

Get tested for breast cancer

Cancer screening exams are medical tests. They’re usually done when a person has no cancer symptoms. 

A mammogram is a screening exam that can find lumps in your breasts that may be too small for you to notice on your own. This is good because it's easier to treat breast cancer when found early.  

Age 21 to 39, get a:

  • Clinical breast exam every one to three years

Age 40 and older, get a:

  • Clinical breast exam every year
  • Mammogram every year

These screening guidelines are for women at average risk for breast cancer. Women at average risk have:

  • No history of breast cancer or radiation treatment to the chest
  • No family history (mother, sister, daughter) of breast cancer
  • No abnormal breast cancer genes, like the BRCA 1 or 2 genes.

If you are at increased risk for breast cancer, you may need to start screening exams at an earlier age, get additional tests or be tested more often. See our screening guidelines for women at increased risk.

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT: Schedule your breast cancer screening exam at 
MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center? Call 713-745-8040 for your appointment.  

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Get a Mammogram

Did you know you can get a mammogram along with a personalized prevention plan at MD Anderson? 

Schedule an appointment today by calling 713-745-8040.

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center