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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.

While it’s possible for anyone to be diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease occurs almost entirely in cisgender (cis) women.

How common is breast cancer?

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in cis women. When it comes to the breast cancer statistics, about 1 in 8 will get breast cancer. It’s also the second deadliest type of cancer for cis women. Over 240,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the U.S. and 40,000 people die from the disease.

Am I at risk for breast cancer?

Anyone can get breast cancer, but there are some things that can increase your risk, including

  • being a cisgender woman

  • inherited mutations to genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) that are related to breast cancer

  • being more than 50 years old

  • a blood relative who has had breast or ovarian cancer

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 risks.

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 red, 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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