Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer is the leading cause of death for women 15-54 years of age. A woman's best chance against breast cancer is knowing how to monitor her own breasts and the appropriate steps to take if a change should occur..

Misconceptions:

  • Breast cancer is NOT contagious.
  • Breast injury does NOT cause breast cancer.
  • Sexual stimulation to the breast is NOT a cause of breast cancer.
  • Breast feeding, mastatitis (inflamation of the breast) and abscesses are NOT causes.
  • Radiation from mammography is NOT a cause.
  • A family history does not mean that you will have breast cancer.


The breast is a large gland. It covers most of the chest wall, not just the obvious mound. Nodularity of the breasts is normal for all women. It is caused by hormonal stimulation. Increased hormonal stimulation equals increased lumpiness, pain and soreness. Women have different levels of hormonal stimulation. They have differrent responses of their breast tissue to this hormonal stimulation. Nodularity is an individual characteristic that varies from woman to woman.

SURPRISE!! All women have lumpy breasts to one extent or another.

Breast tissue is constantly changing. Breasts may feel different at different times of the month and breast tissue changes at different times in life. These changes are unrelated to breast cancer.

What do nodules feel like?

They may feel like grains of sand, bumpy, rod-shaped or have a lumpy texture.

Risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Being Female
  • Increasing age
  • Family history - First degree relatives with breast cancer that was pre menopausal or bilateral (both sides), increase risk factors 5x. These cancers tend to be more genetically linked.
  • Personal history of breast cancer.
  • Hormonal environment
  • Age when menstruation begins
  • First birth after age 30
  • Not having children
  • Obesity has been shown to increase risk after menopause
  • Diet: Some studies have shown a high fat, low fiber diet increases risks, others do not. High fat diets increase estrogen hormone production.
  • Alcohol intake: One drink per day increases risk by 40%, two drinks a day increase risk by 70%.

Remember that ALL women are at risk for breast cancer. 76% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no risk factors. Identified risk factors serve as a caution light, NOT a definite diagnosis.

EARLY DETECTION IS YOUR BEST PROTECTION

A woman practicing monthly breast self-examination has the best chance of finding early changes between clinical exams. Your best chance is by doing monthly self-examination, yearly clinical exams by your doctor and an annual mammogram after the age of 40.

Get to know your breasts. Most women think their breasts should feel like a bowl of jello. In reality, the breasts feel like lumpy oatmeal because of their glandular structure. Understanding the normal changes your breasts undergo helps you detect the unusual finding in the breast.

Interesting facts:

  • 90% of lumps are first found by the woman
  • 80% of lumps biopsied are NOT cancerous
  • 50% of breast cancers occur in the upper outer quadrant of breast tissue.
  • Most women have one breast that is smaller than the other.
  • It is not unusual to have hair growing from the areola (the colored part of the breast surrounding the nipple.)

Have you been told that you have "fibrocystic breast disease"? Many women have been told they have "fibrocystic disease" if they have either lumpy or painful breasts. In reality, 90% of women have lumpy breasts and experience some occasional pain. "Fibrocystic changes" is the new term used to explain the normal hormonal functioning causes. This is a better term because it removes some of the fear that the word "disease" causes.

Breast Self-Examination

Mammography