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Signs & Symptoms
  • Unusual persistent breast changes
  • Lump
  • Pain/tenderness outside of usual menstrual cycle
  • Thickening
  • Nipple discharge
  • Change in size or shape (swelling or distortion)
  • Skin irritation (scaly rash) or dimpling
  • Nipple pain or retraction
General Risk Factors
  • Increasing age
  • Personal or family history of breast cancer
  • Never having children or having first child after age 30
  • Early onset of menstruation or late menopause
  • Recent use of postmenopausal estrogen (hormone replacement)
  • Daily alcohol use
  • Use of drug diethylstilbestrol (DES)
African-American Women & Breast Cancer Risks
According to statistics compiled by the American Cancer Society for 1995-2001, the five-year survival rate for African-American women is 76% versus 90% for white women. In addition, pre-menopausal African-American women have one of the highest incidences of breast cancer. Early studies suggest that breast cancer in African-American women is more aggressive which may contribute to the higher mortality rate and further studies are exploring this question. The good news, however, is that overall (taking into account all ages) the incidence of breast cancer is lower than white women. Learn More

Lesbian/Bisexual Women, Transgender Persons & Breast Cancer
The risk factors for developing breast cancer for lesbians are not greater. However, some life style differences apart from heterosexual women may contribute to greater incidence. These risk factors are:
  1. None or few full-term pregnancies
  2. Increased body weight compared to heterosexual and bisexual women
  3. Alcohol usage

Other factors that influence breast cancer incidence: Many single lesbians have lower incomes that preclude their ability to afford medical care and may lack health insurance coverage altogether; fear of homophobic medical environments that would hinder women from seeking medical care.

Transgender persons have unique issues. Whether female to male or male to female, hormone therapy creates a risk factor. We do know that estrogen level is an important risk factor. In the case of a female to male transgender, that person may have a false sense of security and discount the need for vigilance. In the male to female transgender, there may be a lack of knowledge about the impact of hormones and the need for vigilance.

An important health issue for transgender persons is the total exclusion of medical insurance coverage for transgender persons making well-care not easily inaccessible. This population also faces heightened homophobia in the delivery of medical care.

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