Breast Health Information

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in American women behind lung cancer. Women in the U.S. get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except melanoma. Breast cancer occurs in men also, but the number of cases is small. Be sure to call your health provider if you notice any changes in how your breast or nipple looks or feels including lumps, discharge and changes in your breast’s skin, size, or shape.

Increase chances of early detection of breast cancer with these recommendations:

  • Regular breast self-exams for women in their 20s
  • Physical breast exam by a health professional about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s
  • Yearly mammograms starting at age 40
  • Physical breast exam by a health professional each year for women 40+
  • Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their healthcare provider

If you think you might have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, see information about our high-risk care program.

The American Cancer Society recommends that some women — because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors — be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

Know your risk factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor, but having one doesn’t mean you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer, either. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. The Jewish Hospital — Mercy Health Breast Center offers evaluations and monitoring for those at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute includes these risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Older age
  • Early age at menarche (menstruation)
  • Older age at first birth or never having given birth
  • A personal history of breast cancer or benign (non-cancer) breast disease
  • A mother, sister, daughter, or father with breast cancer
  • Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest
  • Taking hormones such as estrogen and progesterone
  • Obesity
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Certain ethnic backgrounds

Nutrition for breast health

Anything that impacts your general health also impacts your breast health. Reduce your cancer risk by practicing these common health guidelines for overall physical condition. In fact, many of these tips are beneficial for other conditions you might have or be at risk for developing, such as diabetes.

  • Stay away from tobacco products
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get moving with regular physical activity
  • Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink (if you drink at all)
  • Protect your skin
  • Know yourself, your family history and your risks
  • Have regular check-ups and cancer screening tests

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Mercy Health Physicians.