Breast Health & Disease

Breasts play many roles women's lives. They give women their unique shapes. They provide sexual pleasure. They deliver life-sustaining milk to their babies.

Some women are completely comfortable with their breasts, others aren't. They worry that their breasts are too big or too small, sit too high or hang too low, are lopsided, or aren't as firm as they once were. Regardless of size or shape, all women want healthy breasts for a lifetime.

Five ways to keep breasts healthy include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, limiting alcohol (no more than one drink a day), not smoking, and regularly performing breast self-exams.

Among younger women, common breast problems include fibrocystic breast disease, a noncancerous condition characterized by breast pain, cysts, and lumps); and fibroadenomas, small bumps of fibrous and glandular tissue that can be painful.

For older women, the concern is more likely to be breast cancer. About 1 in 8 (12%) of women living in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetimes. Each year, about 300,000 American women are diagnosed with some form of breast cancer, and about 40,000 die of it.

Breast cancer can often be successfully treated, especially if it is detected early. That's why women are urged to check their breasts at home, and to have routine mammograms beginning at age 50 (or earlier for women at high risk for developing breast cancer).

Breast Health & Disease Articles

Caution: Cancer risk elevated in women with dense breasts

The risk of dying from breast cancer does not appear to be greater in women with dense breasts who get breast cancer. That may be because women with breast cancer often are treated with medicines that lower estrogen levels and block the effects of estrogen. Women with dense breasts are advised to get a breast MRI in addition to a mammogram if they have a known hereditary cancer gene, a first-degree relative with the mutation, a history of radiation to the chest wall in adolescence, or a 20% to 25% or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer based on family history and other risks. (Locked) More »