Breast Cancer

With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women in the United States. More than 180,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Learn more about the anatomy of the breast.

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

Evidence suggests that a woman’s chance for developing breast cancer increases with age. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50, and the risk is especially high for women over age 60.

Other factors that may increase the risk of this disease include:

  • Personal history of breast cancer. Women who have had breast cancer face an increased risk of getting breast cancer in their other breast.
  • Family history. If a woman’s mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer (especially at a young age), her risk of developing breast cancer increases.
  • Race. White women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than African American or Asian women.
  • Certain breast changes. Receiving a diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) may increase a woman’s risk for developing cancer.
  • Genetic alterations. Changes in certain genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and others increase the risk of breast cancer. Gene testing can show genetic changes that increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Estrogen. The longer a woman is exposed to estrogen (estrogen made by the body, taken as a drug or delivered by a patch), the more likely she is to develop breast cancer. Women who began menstration at an early age (before age 12), went through menopause late (after age 55), never had children or who took hormone replacement therapy for an extended period of time are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Late childbearing. Women who have their first child after about age 30 have a greater chance of developing breast cancer than women who have a child at a younger age.
  • Breast density. Breast cancers nearly always develop in lobular or ductal tissue (not fatty tissue). Therefore, cancer is more likely to occur in breasts that have dense tissue than in breasts with a lot of fatty tissue. Also, when breasts have dense tissue it’s more difficult for doctors to see abnormal areas on a mammogram.
  • Radiation therapy. Women whose breasts were exposed to radiation during radiation therapy before age 30 (especially those treated for Hodgkin’s disease), are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Alcohol. Studies suggest that women who drink alcohol have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.

The Highland Breast Care Center is the only facility in the area to offer a Risk Assessment and Risk Reduction Program for women who may have an elevated probability of getting breast cancer. We have a team of doctors and nurses who are committed to helping you beat breast cancer.

Common Symptoms of Breast CancerWomen do not usually experience pain with early breast cancer. There may be no symptoms at all when breast cancer first develops. However, as the cancer grows women can look for these common signs: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 pulled back (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 (e.g., warm, swollen, red or scaly).
Not all lumps or changes in breast tissue mean that you have breast cancer. There are several breast disorders that are noncancerous or benign.Diagnosing Breast CancerYour doctor may order tests to learn more about the cause of your symptoms. The doctor may perform one of more of these tests including:Clinical breast examMammographyDuctography (Ductal Lavage)MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)Stereotactic Breast BiopsyUltrasonography

Treatment Options for Breast Cancer

At the Highland Breast Care Center, we believe in breast cancer management, not just treatment. This means caring for the whole person, taking into account your diagnostic, medical, surgical and emotional needs.

Based on your diagnosis, your doctor will develop a treatment plan that fits your needs. Treatment options for breast cancer depend on the stage of the disease and the grade of the tumor, how abnormal the cells look and how likely they are to grow or spread.

Below are the most common treatment options for breast cancer.

Information about…Our services
SurgerySurgical Oncology
Radiation TherapyRadiation Oncology
ChemotherapyHematology Oncology
Hormonal Therapy

Breast Reconstruction

After a mastectomy (an operation to remove the breast), some women decide to wear a breast form (prosthesis). Others prefer to have breast reconstruction, either at the same time as the mastectomy or later on. It’s important is that nearly every woman treated for breast cancer has choices. It’s best to consult with a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy, even if reconstruction will be considered later on.

Various procedures are used to reconstruct the breast. Some use implants (either saline or silicone); others use tissue moved from another part of the woman’s body, a procedure called a Tram FlapMore about Breast Reconstruction

Additional Resources

You can find out more about breast cancer by visiting any of the following organizations:

Find out about our clinical trials for:

Breast Cancer

National cancer clinical trials


Alissa Huston, M.D.

Michelle Shayne, M.D.

Radiation Oncologists

Marilyn Ling M.D.

Hong Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.

Surgical Oncologists

Carl Andrus, M.D.

Ann T. Olzinski, M.D.

James Peacock, M.D.

Kristin Skinner, M.D.

Breast Reconstruction

Marie N. Frankel, M.D.

Howard N. Langstein, M.D.

Steven Vega, M.D.

Male Breast Cancer

According to the NCI, breast cancer affects more than 1,000 men in this country each year.

Although the information about breast cancer on our site was written mainly for women, the information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment applies to men as well. Experts do not recommend routine screening for men.

Scroll to Top