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About Breast Cancer

Get basic information about breast cancer, various risk factors, prevention methods, and detailed information about breast cancer detection through mammograms, ultrasounds, and other tests from the American Cancer Society.

Learn what breast cancer is and about symptoms, risk factors, mammograms, diagnosis, and treatment for breast cancer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learn about breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment, statistics, research, clinical trials, and more from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Changes that are not normal

So you’re worried because you’ve noticed a change in your breasts and you’re wondering about breast cancer symptoms.

You probably already know this, but breasts change a lot throughout life. Puberty, getting pregnant, breastfeeding, getting older. All of these cause changes that are normal and healthy. But some changes aren’t.

A 2-minute video from Planned Parenthood.

Changes that are not normal

“One of the ones that folks know the most about, of course, is the lump, but there are others,” says Temeika Fairley, PhD,  Senior Health Scientist at the CDC.

“Like any unusual rash on your breast that may be dimply. The skin could be flaky. Any discharge in the breast, blood or fluid, other than breast milk. When there is a change that’s unusual, follow up with your doctor as soon as possible.”

A 1-minute video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Cambios que no son normales

Estás preocupada porque notaste algo diferente en tus senos y te inquieta que pueda ser un síntoma de cáncer de mama.

Primero que todo, no te asustes.

Quizás ya lo sepas, pero los senos cambian mucho en las distintas etapas de la vida. En la pubertad, los embarazos, la lactancia o al hacerse mayor… ocurren cambios que son normales y saludables.

A 2-minute video from Planned Parenthood.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)

Black women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer compared with white women. Triple-negative breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.
Source: “Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Deadlier for Black Women, Partially Due to Lower Surgery, Chemotherapy Rates” on

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers. These cancers tend to be more common in women younger than age 40, who are African-American, or who have a BRCA1 mutation.

Triple-negative breast cancer is a kind of breast cancer that does not have any of the receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) need different types of treatments because they are estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER2-negative.

The report Disparities in screening and diagnosis for triple negative breast cancer describes the impact that social determinants of health and differences in access to screening and diagnosis have on the survival of women with Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

And it highlights how health policies in the United States can support women’s access to timely screening and diagnosis.

From the Tigerlily Foundation and Gilead Sciences

TNBC Lacks 3 Cell Receptors

Breast cancer is generally classified based on the presence or absence of 3 receptors known to fuel most breast cancer tumors:

  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • HER2

A diagnosis of TNBC mans that the tumor does not exhibit any of these three known receptors.

A 3-minute video from Roche.

Triple Negative Doesn't Mean Triple Worse

Triple negative breast cancer doesn’t mean that your cancer is triple worse than someone else’s. It just tells your oncologist that your tumor isn’t going to  respond to targeted therapies such  as hormones or HER2 treatments.

Triple negative breast cancers tend to  grow more aggressively and spread more quickly than  most other  types of breast cancer.  Luckily, chemotherapy works best for this subtype. Just like a herbicide, it can kill most of the fast-growing weeds in your garden.

A 4-minute video from the Dr. Susan Love Foundation.

TNBC Common in West Africa

“Ghanaian women in Western Sub-Saharan Africa have a very high risk for triple negative breast cancers and more than half of the breast cancer patients in Ghana have triple negative tumors,” says breast cancer surgeon Lisa Newman, MD, of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.

“This suggests that there is something related to western Sub-Saharan African ancestry that predisposes women for a risk of having these biologically aggressive breast cancers.”

A 6-minute video from MDedge.

"Black women diagnosed with TNBC are in an uphill battle against barriers"

“Race-related health disparities are a matter of life and death. Having grown up as a Nigerian immigrant in America with a nurse for a mother and a  Master’s degree in Public Health under my belt, I’m incredibly aware of the challenges and disparities black women face.” says actress Yvonne Orji.

“Healthcare symptoms get ignored. Risks go unrealized. Diseases progress. This injustice has created a silent crisis and we’re here to give it a voice in partnership with breast cancer advocacy community.”

Uncovering TNBC was developed specifically for Black women to address the barriers and unique challenges that they face on their journey with Triple Negative Breast Cancer or TNBC.

TNBC accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers. It’s aggressive and often difficult to treat. Now, no matter what type of cancer you have, you’re in for a fight.

But for Black women who are at high risk or are newly diagnosed with TNBC, it can be an uphill battle against barriers like unsatisfying communications with doctors, delays between diagnosis and treatment and lack of adequate insurance or resources.”

A 2-minute video from Merck.

Uncovering TNBC: Stories of Resilience
The stories of three women who faced—and rose above—the challenges of TNBC.

Damesha from Charlotte, North Carolina
A 7-minute video from Merck

Sharon from Richmond, Virginia
A 6-minute video from Merck

Tiah from Atlanta, Georgia
A 7-minute video from Merck

An interactive app to answer questions about TNBC

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. Available on the web and as an Apple or Android app.

"There were definitely signs that I ignored"

“My doctor had been urging me to get a mammogram, but I kept puting it off because I was like, people don’t get breast cancer until they’re 40,” says Tomika.  “And then I just decided to go ahead and get it over with so he could leave me alone.” 

Her diagnosis: triple negative breast cancer. 

“A lot of women are putting off screenings. But I want to encourage you not to do that. Make yourself the number one priority because you never know that’s going on inside your body.”

A 2-minute video from PatientPoint Studios.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

Black women are 72 percent more likely than White women to be diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer. Black women are diagnosed with this cancer at an average of four years younger than White women. And Black women die an average of one and one-half years earlier than White women with the disease.

Source:  Incidence and survival of inflammatory breast cancer between 1973 and 2015 in the SEER database (2020).

Women with inflammatory breast cancer are living longer, but the gap between White and Black patients persists

Women with inflammatory breast cancer — a rare, highly aggressive form of the disease — are living about twice as long after diagnosis than their counterparts in the mid-to-late 1970s, according to University of Michigan research led by Hannah Abraham (above).

But despite overall improvements in survival, the analysis showed an ongoing disparity in life expectancy between White and Black patients.

The factors behind these racial disparities “might include awareness about the signs and symptoms of IBC among Black patients, biological and genetic differences, delays in diagnosis and treatment, the standard of care patients receive, including follow-up and survivorship care, and environmental factors,” said Abraham.

See “Women with inflammatory breast cancer are living longer, but the gap between white and black patients persists” on the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation website (October 12, 2020)

"This is a a type of breast cancer that does not show up with a lump and rarely shows up in mammograms"

“This is a type of breast cancer that does not show up with a lump, so it is very often misdiagnosed until it has metastasized into a stage 4 cancer. If we know what to look for, we are so much safer,” says Florida counselor and cancer survivor Martha Van Dam.

“It’s called inflammatory breast cancer because the breast actually becomes inflamed…Another thing you need to know about inflammatory breast cancer is that it very rarely shows up in mammograms.

“The message is this: If you see something different about your breasts, something that changes, that is not normal, do not just assume. If you want to give it a little bit of time, give it a very little bit of time. And if it isn’t better in two days then get it checked out.”

“You really, really hope you can find it at stage 3. If you find it at stage 4, then it’s already spread to a more distant part of the body.”

A 9-minute video from Martha Van Dam

Signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer

IBC causes a number of signs and symptoms, most of which develop quickly (within 3-6 months), including:

  • Swelling (edema) of the skin of the breast
  • Redness involving more than one-third of the breast
  • Pitting or thickening of the skin of the breast so that it may look and feel like an orange peel
  • A retracted or inverted nipple
  • One breast looking larger than the other because of swelling
  • One breast feeling warmer and heavier than the other
  • A breast that may be tender, painful or itchy
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arms or near the collarbone

If you have any of these symptoms, it does not mean that you have IBC, but you should see a doctor right away.
Source: Inflammatory Breast Cancer (American Cancer Society, 2022)

About Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer, how it is diagnosed, stages of the cancer, survival rates, and treatment. From the American Cancer Society.

Learn what breast cancer is and about symptoms, risk factors, mammograms, diagnosis, and treatment for breast cancer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is inflammatory breast cancer?, the symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, how it’s treated, what is the prognosis, what clinical trials are available. From the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Important facts about breast cancer often misconstrued or misunderstood

“Based on my research, many women are misinformed about breast cancer risk factors. Many women also have fears and misconceptions about mammograms,” says Michelle S. Williams of George Mason University.

“Mammograms do not cause or spread breast cancer. Any women can develop breast cancer, regardless of family history. Men can also get breast cancer. Breast cancer can affect women of any age. Breast cancer signs and symptom can vary for each individual. There are ways you can decrease your risk for breast cancer.”

Source: “The Truth About Breast Cancer Myths” by Mary Cunningham on the George Mason University website.

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