Breast Cancer

What is it?

Breast cancer is cancer that begins in the breast. While much more common in those assigned female at birth, those assigned male at birth can also get breast cancer.

Breast cancer is highly curable if found early. Unfortunately, many breast cancers are diagnosed once it has already spread. Early Detection = Better Outcomes, so it’s important to get screened, reduce your risk, and talk with your health care provider about your health history.

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Get screened

Breast cancer screening guidelines apply to those who were assigned female at birth and have breasts, and who are at average risk. Transgender individuals should talk with their health care provider about their specific screening needs.

If you are at average risk, follow these screening guidelines:*

*Source: National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Ages 25–39:

Three-year check-up. Talk with your health care provider at least once every three years for risk assessment, risk reduction counseling and a clinical breast exam.

Beginning at age 40:

Annual check-up and 2D OR 3D screening mammogram (breast tomosynthesis). Get screened annually if you are at average risk. Discuss the benefits and risks of screening tests with your health care provider and talk about which screening method is right for you.

2D or 3D mammograms

2D mammograms take a picture of the breast from the side and from above. In 3D mammography, several pictures of the breast are taken from various angles to create a 3D image. This helps improve the accuracy of the test, which can be particularly helpful for women with dense breast tissue, which may make it harder to see cancers. Both types of mammograms are appropriate screening options.

Menopause: Hormone replacement therapy

Talk with your health care provider about breast cancer risks associated with hormone replacement therapy.

High risk: Earlier or more frequent testing

If you are at high risk for breast cancer because of a genetic mutation or personal or family history, you may need to be screened differently (starting earlier, varied intervals or additional tests). Follow the recommendations of your health care provider.

Genetic testing

Genetic testing may be an option for those who want more information about their cancer risk based on their family history or race/ethnicity.

Learn more

Know your risk

While breast cancer rates are higher in white people, studies report higher breast cancer death rates in Black people, who are also more likely to get diagnosed with breast cancer in later stages.

If you were assigned female at birth, you are at increased risk for breast cancer. You are also at increased risk if you:

  • Are overweight or obese.
  • Are not physically active.
  • Are currently using or have recently used birth control pills.
  • Are over 40.
  • Never had children or had your first child after age 30.
  • Used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen and progesterone for more than 10 years.
  • Have mutations of BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2 or other genes.
  • Have a family history of breast, colorectal or ovarian cancer. (Talk to your health care provider about genetic testing.)
  • Had high-dose radiation therapy on your chest.
  • Have already had cancer in one breast or your chest.
  • Smoke.
  • Drink alcohol in excess.

Reduce your risk

You may reduce your risk for breast cancer through these lifestyle-related modifications:

Icon illustration of a cigarette with smoke coming from its tip and a large X over it indicating no smoking.

Do not smoke or use tobacco in any way.

If you do, quit.

Exercise for at least 30 minutes, at least 5 days a week.

Icon illustration of an adult holding a baby up to their chest.

Breastfeeding (chestfeeding) may lower the risk of breast cancer.

Icon illustration of a wine bottle and a wine glass with a large X over it indicating not to drink alcohol.

Avoid or limit alcohol.

To reduce your risk of cancer, it’s best to avoid alcohol completely. If you do choose to drink, limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day if you were assigned female at birth and no more than two drinks a day if you were assigned male at birth.

Icon illustration of a body scale.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Get screened for breast cancer based on guidelines and your personal risk factors.

Signs & symptoms

If you notice any of these symptoms, take action and talk to your health care provider right away:

  • A lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast
  • A lump under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Nipple pain, tenderness or discharge, including bleeding
  • Itchiness, scales, soreness or rash on your nipple
  • A nipple turning inward or inverted
  • A change in skin color and texture such as dimpling, puckering or redness
  • A breast that feels warm or swollen

Treatment options

Treatment depends on the type and stage of the breast cancer and your medical condition:


The most common treatment is surgery to remove the cancer (lumpectomy), combined with radiation. In some cases, it is necessary to remove the breast (mastectomy).


This is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with another therapy before or after surgery.

Radiation therapy

This treatment uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It may be used alone or in combination with another therapy before or after surgery.

Hormone therapy

Since breast cancer can use hormones to grow, this treatment may be used to slow or stop its growth. It may be used alone or in combination with another therapy before or after surgery.


This type of cancer treatment helps your immune system better respond to the cancer to detect and destroy abnormal cells. It may be used alone or in combination with another therapy before or after surgery.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy can be a drug or antibody that targets the proteins that affect how cancer cells grow, divide and spread. It may be used alone or in combination before or after surgery.

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