Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women—one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
Be breast aware
You should touch and look at your breasts regularly, so you know how they normally look and feel—even take notice of any changes that are part of your regular cycle. Knowing your breasts will help you spot any changes quickly. All new breast changes should be checked out by your health care provider. Not all new breast changes are cancerous, but they do need to be assessed to ensure they’re normal.
Changes that should be assessed by your primary health care provider include:
- a new lump in the breast, or thickening or hardening of the skin
- bloody or clear fluid leaking from the nipple
- a change in the look or feel of the skin, such as puckering or dimpling, or redness, thickening, and pitting like the skin of an orange
- a change in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast, or a change in nipple position such as the nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
- peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the area around the nipple
We encourage everyone to look and feel for changes in their breasts, but mammograms are still the most reliable method for early detection of breast cancer.
Breast cancer risk factors
A risk factor is something that increases your risk of developing breast cancer. Some risk factors can be controlled, but others can’t. Risk factors that can’t be controlled include:
- being a woman - breast cancer rates are much higher in women than men
- being older - risk increases with age
- family history of breast cancer in a close relative like mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son
- genetics - you may be simply predisposed to developing breast cancer
- breast density - Learn more about breast density
Reducing your risk
Though many breast cancer risk factors are out of your control, there are some things you can do to improve your breast health. To help minimize your chances of developing breast cancer, you should:
- maintain a healthy body weight
- keep an active lifestyle
- limit alcohol consumption
- avoid smoking and second-hand smoke
Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer and also improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs.