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Breast Cancer risk factors and symptoms

HSHS St. John’s Hospital is dedicated to saving lives by ensuring you know your risk factors and symptoms so that you can get timely diagnosis and treatment. Our team of cancer care specialists are here to help you every step of your journey.

Young woman in pink smiling

Knowing your risk factors helps you take action to catch breast cancer early. 

Risk factors specific to breast cancer may include genetic background, lifestyle choices, obesity, age and more. Although these things may increase your odds to develop the disease, they do not definitively point to a probable diagnosis. In fact, some women who have breast cancer have may not have any of these risk factors:

  • Gender 
  • Age 
  • Race 
  • Genetic predisposition 
  • Previous history of breast cancer 
  • Family history of breast cancer 
  • History of ovarian cancer 
  • Prolonged exposure to estrogen 
  • Medical conditions of the breast 
  • Obesity 
  • Tobacco use 
  • Alcohol use 

The specific steps you can take to minimize your chances for breast cancer and potentially prevent it include: 

  • Routine self and physician breast exams 
  • Annual mammograms for women 40 years of age and older 
  • Smart lifestyle and health choices 
  • Regular physical exams 

Common symptoms of breast cancer

Early detection and targeted treatment play a major role in the fight against breast cancer. Knowing the signs and symptoms and taking appropriate action gives you a better chance of catching it before it progresses. 

  • Symptoms of breast cancer may include: 
  • Lumps 
  • Thickening in breast tissue or under the arms 
  • Bloody nipple discharge 
  • A sore on the nipple that doesn’t heal 
  • Irritations in the skin, dimples, scales or new creases 
  • Swollen or red breasts 
  • Rashes similar to the skin of an orange