Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States. It is predicted that, this year alone, more than 200,000 women and nearly 1,500 men will develop breast cancer. The American Cancer Society currently recommends that breast cancer screening practices include annual mammograms for women at average risk beginning at age 40. Mammograms are imperfect, however, depending upon such factors as the skill of the interpreting radiologist as well as the particular kind of breast cancer that may be involved. For this reason, additional screening practices may include breast self-examination or a clinical breast examination conducted by a nurse or physician.
It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Early detection can expand treatment options and improve chances for long-term recovery. While most breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous), the most common sign of breast cancer for both women and men is a lump or thickening in the breast. In addition, signs and symptoms of breast cancer include a spontaneous clear or bloody discharge from the nipple, retraction or indentation of the nipple, a change in the size or contours of the breast, any flattening or indentation of the skin over the breast and redness or pitting of the skin over the breast. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then you should consult with your physician immediately. For more information about breast cancer, including signs and symptoms, risk factors, early detection and treatment, please visit the Mayo Clinic and American Cancer Society websites.