United Health Services

Screening - Education - Advocacy

Breast Health Facts


Breast Facts 

  • Women should be doing self breast exams starting in their 20s and should report any changes promptly to their health care providers.
  • A clinical breast exam should be part of a woman’s health care plan and should be done every 2 to 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women in their 40s.
  • Yearly Mammograms are recommended yearly for women starting at age 40.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends an MRI and mammogram every year for women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk).
  • Women at moderate risk (15% to 20% lifetime risk) should talk with their health care providers about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram.
  • Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15%.

Breast Changes

Knowing how your breast normally look and feel is an important part of breast health. Finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment. But knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer in its early stages, before any symptoms appear.

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass, lump or breast change checked by a health care professional experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.

Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:

      • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt) 
      • Skin irritation or dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
      • Breast or nipple pain
      • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
      • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
      • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked by a health care provider. 

Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, they should be reported to a health care professional so that the cause can be found. 

Breast Cancer in Men

Breast cancer is not just a woman’s disease. Men do get breast cancer, though it is rare.
The most common symptoms of male breast cancer include a lump in the chest area, skin dimpling or puckering, or nipple changes. Because breast cancer is much more common in females, many men don’t realize that they can get the disease, it can delay diagnosis and as a result, some cancers are not found until they have progressed to later stage. However, when cancer is found at the same stage among men and women, the survival rates are similar. It is important to report any persistent lumps or changes in your chest area to your doctor.