The warning signs of breast cancer and when to be screened

Early detection leads to easier treatments.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the second most common cancer for women in the U.S.

Know what to look for

Regular breast self-exams, along with knowing the early warning signs of breast cancer, are key for early detection. If breast cancer is found during a screening exam, it’s more likely to be smaller and less likely to have spread outside the breast, the American Cancer Society explains. Some things to look out for include:

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm.
  • Any changes in breast shape or size.
  • Changes in breast skin or nipple area.
  • Pain in the breast.
  • Nipple discharge.

Although it’s less common, men can get breast cancer too. If you or a loved one notice any of these changes, it is important to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP) or OB-GYN as soon as possible. Your doctor will order appropriate testing.

What is a breast cancer screening?

A breast cancer screening checks the breasts for cancer. Breast cancer screenings can’t prevent cancer, they can help find it early, when it is easier to treat. Without symptoms, your doctor will recommend the best time and frequency to start regular breast screenings.

When to be screened for breast cancer

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening mammography, with or without clinical breast examination, every 1-2 years for women aged 50 and older. Women aged 40-49 should contact their PCP to find out if they should be screened. Talk to your doctor about which breast-screening tests are right for you and when you should have them. Download our preventive care checklist for women to stay on top of all your preventive care exams including breast screenings.

How to help reduce your risk

The best defense against breast cancer is getting and staying healthy. You may not be able to control risk factors like having a family history of breast cancer, but you can control your behaviors and lifestyle to make a difference. According to the CDC, you may help reduce your risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and choosing not to drink alcohol or drinking in moderation.

Other health observances

Looking for other important preventive health care information? Check out these 6 tips to prevent catching the flu, and these prediabetes warning signs and screenings.

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