No one knows why some women develop breast cancer and others do not. Although the disease may affect younger women, three-fourths of all breast cancers occur in women age 50 or older.
In Situ and Invasive Breast Cancer
Researchers often talk about breast cancer in two ways: in situ and invasive. In situ refers to cancer that has not spread beyond its site of origin. Invasive applies to cancer that has spread to the tissue around it.
This chart shows what the approximate chances are of a woman getting invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.
|30 to 40... | Chances are 1 out of 227|
|40 to 50... | Chances are 1 out of 68|
|50 to 60... | Chances are 1 out of 41|
|60 to 70... | Chances are 1 out of 27|
|70 to 80... | Chances are 1 out of 25|
Older age and the following risk factors increase a woman's chance of getting breast cancer. Risk factors are conditions or agents that increase a person's chances of getting a disease.
- Breast cancer among one or more of your close relatives, such as a sister, mother, or daughter.
- Having no children or having your first child in your mid-thirties or later.
- Having your first menstrual period before age 12.
- Gaining weight after menopause, especially after natural menopause and/or after age 60.
- Race. White women are at greater risk than black women. However, black women diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to die of the disease.
Five percent to 10 percent of all breast cancers are thought to be inherited.
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When breast cancer first develops, there may be no symptoms at all. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that women should watch for. You can help safeguard your health by learning the following warning signs of breast cancer.
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
- A change in the size or shape of the breast.
- Nipple discharge or tenderness, or the nipple is pulled back or inverted into the breast.
- Ridges or pitting of the breast. The skin looks like the skin of an orange.
- A change in the way the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple looks or feels. For example, the skin may be warm, swollen, red, or scaly.
Don't Ignore Symptoms
You should see your doctor about any symptoms like these. Most often, they are not cancer, but it's important to check with the doctor so that any problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Some women believe that as they age, health problems are due to "growing older." Because of this myth, many illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated. Don't ignore your symptoms because you think they are not important or because you believe they are normal for your age. Talk to your doctor.