Oncology and Cancer Care at St. Luke's Health

Breast Cancer Risk Factors & Symptoms

Because breast cancer occurs in about one in every eight women, it’s important to receive regular screenings based on your age. If you are at higher risk for breast cancer, your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings. Some breast cancer risk factors include:

  • A family history of breast cancer
  • A personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • A personal history of benign tumors and tissue removal
  • Mutations in breast cancer gene 1 or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA 1 and BRCA 2)
  • Menstruation earlier than age 12
  • Giving birth to a first child after age 30, or being childless
  • Beginning menopause after age 55
  • Age; most case occur in women or men over 50 years old
  • Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage daily
  • Being overweight, particularly after menopause
  • Taking birth control pills for more than four years before a first, full-term pregnancy
  • Using postmenopausal hormone therapy
  • Exposure to occupational radiation

It’s important to be aware of the normal state of your breasts to be aware of any changes. Monthly self-exams, as well as yearly clinical exams, are a good way to note any abnormalities that could be a sign of the development of breast cancer. Symptoms can include:

  • Breast size or shape changes
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Lumps, hard knots, or thickening inside the breast or underarm
  • Breast swelling, redness or darkening, or warmth
  • An itchy nipple sore or rash
  • Sudden nipple discharge
  • Breast or nipple inversion or retraction
  • New, persistent pain in one area

If you experience any of these symptoms suddenly or would like to assess your personal breast cancer risk, talk to a doctor at St. Luke’s Health.

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