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Hope in the midst of a breast cancer diagnosis: Earlier diagnosis = better outcomes

We won’t sugar coat it - being diagnosed with cancer can be scary. Fortunately, early diagnosis and advancements in treatment have enhanced a person’s chances of survival, with more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors alive in the US today.1

Earlier diagnosis usually means better outcomes

Catching breast cancer early is critical as it opens the door for more treatment options and typically leads to better outcomes. That’s why understanding breast cancer symptoms and remaining compliant with your mammograms is important. 

Breast cancer screenings

The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends having a discussion with your primary care provider beginning at age 40 to discuss breast cancer screening options for you. For women who have a strong family history or heritable genetic mutation (ie, BRCA 1 or 2), screening should start earlier than 40. Talk to your physician about what screening options are appropriate for you. 

Download our breast cancer awareness month calendar to track your mammogram schedule:

Symptoms and warning signs of breast cancer

There are several early warning signs of breast cancer, and these can vary from person to person. 

The most common breast cancer symptom is a lump or mass that is felt in the breast. 40% of breast cancers diagnosed are found by women who noticed a lump.2

Other breast cancer symptoms can include:

  • Changes in the size or shape of your breast
  • Changes to the color of the skin on your breast (redness)
  • Changes to how the breast feels
  • Fluid or blood leaking from your nipple(s) when not breastfeeding
  • Swelling of your breasts
  • Changes to the appearance of your nipples, as if they are turned inside out or have changed in appearance
  • Crusting or a rash around your nipple
  • Persistent pain in your breast or armpit

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor. It is important to remember, that other benign conditions may also cause changes to the breast, such as an infection or harmless cyst. It is best not to panic and talk to your doctor about the next best steps.

Diagnosing breast cancers

If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms and have a mammogram recommended, or if your mammogram determines abnormal results, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), lab work and/or biopsy. In some instances, your doctor may also perform genetic testing to see if you have any genes that predispose you to breast cancer. These tests help determine if you actually have cancer and if so, what type of breast cancer and stage. 

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, don’t panic. Breast cancer treatments have advanced dramatically over the last few decades, allowing more and more women to live with breast cancer as if it were a chronic condition. Focus on surrounding yourself with a clinical team that you feel comfortable with that provides you with an individualized plan specific to your diagnosis and situation.


  1. Eliassen AH, Hankinson SE, Rosner B, Holmes MD, Willett WC. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 170(19):1758-64, 2010.
  2. Johns Hopkins University. 
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