Cancer Types | Breast Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year. Although it’s rare, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. With breast cancer continuing to impact so many people, it’s important to understand the disease and what strides researchers are making.

Key Facts

  • An estimated 284,200 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021, and an estimated 44,130 deaths will occur.
  • More than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S. today.
  • The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer in the U.S. is about 1 in 8 for women and 1 in 833 for men.
  • Research shows only 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary.
  • Dense breasts can be 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop cancer. If you have dense breasts, ask your doctor about extra screening tests, like ultrasound or MRI, to check for tumors that a mammography might have missed.
  • Triple-negative breast cancer differs from other types of invasive breast cancer as they grow and spread faster, have limited treatment options, and a worse prognosis (outcome).
  • A lump isn’t the only sign of breast cancer. Call your doctor if you notice any of the changes shown below.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2021

Signs and Symptoms

A symptom is a change in the body that a person can see and/or feel. A sign is a change that the doctor sees during an examination or on a laboratory test result. If you have any of the symptoms below, it does not mean you have cancer but you should see your doctor or health care professional so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
  • Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened 
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (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.)
  • New lump or mass on breast (can be painless, tender, soft, or round)
Source: American Cancer Society 2021
Pink Breast Cancer Ribbon
3500000
survivors in the U.S. today
1
in 8 women will be diagnosed
2
times more likely with dense breasts
Pink Breast Cancer Ribbon

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is recognized in October. To help accelerate cures please make a gift today.

Researchers Working on Breast Cancer

Daniel A. Haber, Ph.D.
Daniel A. Haber, M.D., Ph.D.
James P. Basilion, Ph.D.
James P. Basilion, Ph.D.
Xiang-Lei Yang, Ph.D. and Paul Schimmel, Ph.D.
Xiang-Lei Yang, Ph.D. and Paul Schimmel, Ph.D.
Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.
Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.
Dr. Ron DePinho
Ronald A. DePinho, M.D.
susan horwitz
Dr. Susan Horwitz
Dr. Amos B. Smith, III
Dr. Amos B. Smith, III

Related Updates

New Treatment & Renewed Hope for Triple-negative Breast Cancer Patients

Nut-Consumption and Breast Cancer Survival

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the world and, although less common, it can also affect men. An estimated 284,200 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and tragically an estimated 44,130 deaths will occur. While screening and treatment options have become more advanced, it is still important for women to proactively reduce breast cancer risk factors. Thankfully, a team of renowned researchers recently discovered that breast cancer prevention could be as simple as eating a handful of trail mix. Connecting the Dots Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Shanghai Municipal Center of Disease Control and Prevention concluded that nut consumption appeared to be associated with higher survival rates among long-term breast cancer survivors. The researchers suggest emphasizing this finding as a modifiable lifestyle factor in survivor guidelines. The team came to this conclusion after analyzing associations of peanut and tree nut consumption with overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) among 3,449 long-term breast cancer survivors aged 20 to 75 years who participated in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study. Of these participants, 3,148 women reported nut consumption, and 301 women reported no nut consumption. The researchers obtained a detailed dietary assessment, which the women completed at the 5-year post-diagnosis follow-up interview between October 2007 and October 2011. The team converted the consumption of nuts into grams per week and calculated total nut consumption as the sum of intake from peanuts, walnuts, and other nuts. Here’s what they found: Participants who consumed nuts regularly had higher rates of OS and DFS (by 4.7% and 7.9%, respectively) 10 years after diagnosis. There were positive associations of nut consumption with OS and DFS after a dose-response pattern for participants with greater-than-median (17.32 g per week) nut intake compared with non-consumers. The team explained that nuts are a common nutrient-dense food seen in healthy diets. As such, several studies have found nuts to be associated with reduced mortality, particularly mortality due to cardiovascular diseases, in the general population. Previously we knew little on whether the health benefits of nut intake extended to breast cancer survivors, particularly regarding the DFS. The goal of this study was to address this knowledge gap. Which nuts should you be eating? While the study mentions peanuts and walnuts by name, there are a variety of nuts that can offer cancer-fighting benefits. Here’s what experts at National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) have to say: Brazil nuts contain the richest source of natural selenium, a nutrient that may play a critical role in reducing the risk of certain cancers Walnuts have pedunculagin, a tannin that the body metabolizes into urolithins. Urolithins are compounds that bind to estrogen receptors and may play a role in preventing breast cancer. Related NFCR-Supported Research NFCR-funded researchers also point out that while eating cancer-fighting foods is a great step, there are other essential factors to include to prevent various cancers – including breast cancer. Exercise and regular screening (where applicable) are vital in preventing and treating cancer. Recently, NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Rakesh Jain and his team at Massachusetts General […]

Life Happens Quickly: Aly’s Story

As we grow older, we learn to understand that life happens quickly. Aly Newel learned just how quickly things could happen when she was screened for, diagnosed with, and received breast cancer treatment, all within 22 days. After losing her mother to breast cancer, Aly devotedly underwent her mammograms as recommended since turning 30 years old. In early 2016, she suddenly realized that she had missed her annual appointment by nearly six months. She quickly made an appointment, not thinking too much about the lapse as everything felt normal.  “My general practitioner told me that the test had detected abnormal cells in my left breast and that she was referring me to a surgeon,” Aly shared. “It wasn’t more than a couple of days before I was with the breast surgeon in absolute shock at how quickly this had happened. With everything that happened with my mom, I was scared.” Aly soon received the biopsy results that quickly filled her with dread as she learned she had breast cancer. Luckily, the ductal carcinoma in-situ was in the early stages and completely treatable.  “I was stunned,” Aly reflected. “How can he have just told me that I have breast cancer, yet it is curable? Honestly, it took me a while to get my head around that.” Before she could fully wrap her head around the news, Aly had a hook wire insertion and lumpectomy.  “These operations sound really scary, but they aren’t at all,” Aly said. “The surgeon came to see me after the operation and told me that everything had gone really well and that the cancer was gone.” Aly felt amazing – pain-free and thrilled to be rid of the nasty disease. She had zero pain and only a little scar on her left breast for which to remember the whirlwind experience. With just a single dose of radiotherapy, she closed this scary yet short chapter.  “I would like to share my story because as a mother of two daughters, I feel that it’s really important to promote early detection by encouraging women to become familiar with the regular feel of their breasts and participate in the screening programs that they are eligible for,” Aly stated. “I also think it’s important for people to realize that being diagnosed with breast cancer doesn’t necessarily have a bad outcome if it’s found early.” Life happens quickly, and sometimes it is easy to forget the small steps that make a big difference – like scheduling regular mammograms. Luckily, the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) has you covered. Follow NFCR on social media or check out our Cancer-Fighting Lifestyle Tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.  Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Let’s talk about Mammograms with Dr. Alexia Matheson Don’t Delay: Skipping One Mammogram Can Significantly Increase Risk of Death from Breast Cancer Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction: What Breast Cancer Patients Should Know   Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.