Breast Cancer Cheat Sheet

In the United States, there are more than 207,000 female patients diagnosed with breast cancer annually. Risk factors and symptoms may include:

Risk Factors:

  • Age (Risk begins to increase at age 40 and is highest in women over age 70)
  • I am a woman
  • There is a history of breast cancer in my family
  • I have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • I have high breast density
  • I have a long menstrual history (menstrual periods that start early and/or end late in life)
  • I have not had children or had them later in life
  • I am overweight or obese
  • I drink two or more alcoholic beverages daily
  • I don’t exercise regularly
  • Postmenopause, I used estrogen and progestin hormones

Warning Symptoms:

  • Abnormality detected on a mammogram
  • A lump under the arm, above the collarbone, or in the breast that remains for more than a week
  • Nipple discharge
  • Inversion of the nipple or other changes to the nipple
  • Changes to the skin surface of the breast
  • Pain or tenderness of the nipple that does not go away
  • Dimpling, thickening or scaliness

If you find any changes in your breasts, even if a recent mammogram came back normal, make an appointment with your doctor right away. You should discuss which of the following diagnostic tools are appropriate for you: Mammogram, Ultrasound, MRI, Biopsy.

Contact The National Women’s Health Information Center for information on health insurance coverage or free clinics. Visit or call 1-800-994-9662.

Remember, early detection equals survival!

This information was provided by the American Cancer Society, The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

This information was reviewed by the Cancer Schmancer Medical Advisory Board.

Last updated: August 2010.