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Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It develops when cells in the breast grow out of control and form tumors. It can spread to other parts of your body.  

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What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease that attacks the tissue in one or both of your breasts. Breast cancer happens when cells stop working correctly, creating abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably. These cancer cells can form tumors and if left untreated, can spread to other parts of your body.

How common is breast cancer?

Over 240,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the U.S. and 40,000 people die from the disease. About 1 in 8 cisgender (cis) women will get breast cancer at some point in their life. It’s also the second deadliest type of cancer for cis women, after lung cancer. 

Am I at risk for breast cancer?

Anyone can get breast cancer. But you can learn more about your risk for breast cancer by asking yourself the following 4 questions:

  • Have you had breast, ovarian, tubal, primary peritoneal, prostate, or pancreatic cancer?
  • Has a blood relative had breast, ovarian, tubal, primary peritoneal, prostate, or pancreatic cancer?
  • Is a blood relative a breast cancer gene carrier (like BRCA)?
  • Are you of Ashkenazi Jewish descent?

If your answer is “no” to all 4 questions, your breast cancer risk is like most people. Having 1 or more risk factors does not mean you’ll definitely get breast cancer. And some people will get breast cancer without having any of these.

Many risk factors are out of your control, but there are some things you can do to help lower your chances of getting the disease. Talk with your doctor or nurse about breast cancer screenings and what you can do to stay healthy.  

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The most common breast cancer symptom is a lump in your breast or in your armpit. Other things besides cancer can cause lumps, so finding one doesn’t definitely mean you have cancer. Also, lots of people have breasts that are just normally lumpy. But it’s important to get checked out if you find a lump.

Here are some other possible signs of breast cancer:

  • Swelling in your breast

  • Dimples in the skin of your breast

  • Pain in your breast or nipple

  • Nipples that turn inward instead of sticking out

  • Skin on your breast or nipple that’s discolored, flaky, scaly, or thicker than normal

  • Discharge or blood coming out of your nipple

It’s also possible for breast cancer not to cause any noticeable symptoms until the disease has developed more. Breast cancer screenings can help find breast cancer before you notice symptoms.

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