Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.
The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Make a difference! Spread the word about mammograms and encourage communities, organizations, families, and individuals to get involved.

How can National Breast Cancer Awareness Month make a difference?
We can use this opportunity to spread the word about steps women can take to detect breast cancer early.
Here are just a few ideas:
  • Ask doctors and nurses to speak to women about the importance of getting screened for breast cancer.
  • Encourage women ages 40 to 49 to talk with their doctors about when to start getting mammograms.
  • Organize an event to talk with women ages 50 to 74 in your community about getting mammograms every 2 years.

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that if you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram. Are you worried about the cost? CDC offers free or low-cost mammograms. Find out if you qualify.

What Are the Symptoms?
There are different symptoms of breast cancer and some people have no symptoms at all. Symptoms can include any change in the size or the shape of the breast, pain in any area of the breast, nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood), and a new lump in the breast or underarm. If you have any signs that worry you, see your doctor right away.

How Can I Lower My Risk?
The main factors that influence your risk for breast cancer include being a woman, being older (most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older), and having changes in your breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2). Most women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors and no history of the disease in their families. There are things you can do to can help lower your breast cancer risk. The Know:BRCA tool can help you assess your risk of having changes in your BRCA genes. Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about which breast cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should have them. CDC’s Bring Your Brave campaign provides information about breast cancer to women younger than age 45 by sharing real stories about young women whose lives have been affected by breast cancer.

Fast Facts About Breast Cancer
  • Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease.
  • Men also get breast cancer, but it is not very common. Less than 1% of breast cancers occur in men.
  • Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women.About 10% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.


Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. To better understand breast cancer, it helps to understand how any cancer can develop.
Cancer occurs as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. The genes are in each cell’s nucleus, which acts as the “control room” of each cell. Normally, the cells in our bodies replace themselves through an orderly process of cell growth: healthy new cells take over as old ones die out. But over time, mutations can “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others in a cell. That changed cell gains the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more cells just like it and forming a tumor.

A tumor can be benign (not dangerous to health) or malignant (has the potential to be dangerous). Benign tumors are not considered cancerous: their cells are close to normal in appearance, they grow slowly, and they do not invade nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous. Left unchecked, malignant cells eventually can spread beyond the original tumor to other parts of the body.
The term “breast cancer” refers to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast. Usually breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands, or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.

Breast AnatomyLarger Version
Over time, cancer cells can invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes, small organs that filter out foreign substances in the body. If cancer cells get into the lymph nodes, they then have a pathway into other parts of the body. The breast cancer’s stage refers to how far the cancer cells have spread beyond the original tumor (see the Stages of breast cancer table for more information).
Breast cancer is always caused by a genetic abnormality (a “mistake” in the genetic material). However, only 5-10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father. Instead, 85-90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the “wear and tear” of life in general.
There are steps every person can take to help the body stay as healthy as possible, such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and exercising regularly (learn what you can do to manage breast cancer risk factors). While these may have some impact on your risk of getting breast cancer, they cannot eliminate the risk. 

Developing breast cancer is not your or anyone's fault. Feeling guilty, or telling yourself that breast cancer happened because of something you or anyone else did, is not productive