Breast Cancer

Breast cancer


Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women.

Substantial support for breast cancer awareness and research funding has helped create advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have increased, and the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining, largely due to factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.


Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:

  • A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
  • Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
  • Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange

When to see a doctor

If you find a lump or other change in your breast — even if a recent mammogram was normal — make an appointment with your doctor for prompt evaluation.


Doctors know that breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. Cells may spread (metastasize) through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.

Breast cancer most often begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma). Breast cancer may also begin in the glandular tissue called lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or in other cells or tissue within the breast.

Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer. But it’s not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never do. It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of your genetic makeup and your environment.

Inherited breast cancer

Doctors estimate that about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family.

A number of inherited mutated genes that can increase the likelihood of breast cancer have been identified. The most well-known are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), both of which significantly increase the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or other cancers, your doctor may recommend a blood test to help identify specific mutations in BRCA or other genes that are being passed through your family.

Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a genetic counselor, who can review your family health history. A genetic counselor can also discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing to assist you with shared decision-making.

Risk factors

A breast cancer risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get breast cancer. But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop breast cancer. Many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women.

Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:

  • Being female. Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer.
  • Increasing age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age.
  • A personal history of breast conditions. If you’ve had a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, you have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
  • A family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a young age, your risk of breast cancer is increased. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
  • Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most well-known gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.
  • Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
  • Obesity. Being obese increases your risk of breast cancer.
  • Beginning your period at a younger age. Beginning your period before age 12 increases your risk of breast cancer.
  • Beginning menopause at an older age. If you began menopause at an older age, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Having never been pregnant. Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer than do women who have had one or more pregnancies.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer decreases when women stop taking these medications.
  • Drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.


Breast cancer risk reduction for women with an average risk

Making changes in your daily life may help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Try to:

  • Ask your doctor about breast cancer screening. Discuss with your doctor when to begin breast cancer screening exams and tests, such as clinical breast exams and mammograms.
    Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of screening. Together, you can decide what breast cancer screening strategies are right for you.
  • Become familiar with your breasts through breast self-exam for breast awareness. Women may choose to become familiar with their breasts by occasionally inspecting their breasts during a breast self-exam for breast awareness. If there is a new change, lumps or other unusual signs in your breasts, talk to your doctor promptly.
    Breast awareness can’t prevent breast cancer, but it may help you to better understand the normal changes that your breasts undergo and identify any unusual signs and symptoms.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day, if you choose to drink.
  • Exercise most days of the week. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. If you haven’t been active lately, ask your doctor whether it’s OK and start slowly.
  • Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy.
    Some women experience bothersome signs and symptoms during menopause and, for these women, the increased risk of breast cancer may be acceptable in order to relieve menopause signs and symptoms.
    To reduce the risk of breast cancer, use the lowest dose of hormone therapy possible for the shortest amount of time.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If your weight is healthy, work to maintain that weight. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy strategies to accomplish this. Reduce the number of calories you eat each day and slowly increase the amount of exercise.
  • Choose a healthy diet. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the Mediterranean diet choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat.

Breast cancer risk reduction for women with a high risk

If your doctor has assessed your family history and determined that you have other factors, such as a precancerous breast condition, that increase your risk of breast cancer, you may discuss options to reduce your risk, such as:

  • Preventive medications (chemoprevention). Estrogen-blocking medications, such as selective estrogen receptor modulators and aromatase inhibitors, reduce the risk of breast cancer in women with a high risk of the disease.
    These medications carry a risk of side effects, so doctors reserve these medications for women who have a very high risk of breast cancer. Discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.
  • Preventive surgery. Women with a very high risk of breast cancer may choose to have their healthy breasts surgically removed (prophylactic mastectomy). They may also choose to have their healthy ovaries removed (prophylactic oophorectomy) to reduce the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Diagnosing Flu

How do I know if I have flu?

Your respiratory illness might be influenza (flu) if you have fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and/or fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children. People may be sick with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Flu viruses usually cause the most illness during the colder months of the year. However, flu can also occur outside of the typical flu season. In addition, other viruses can also cause respiratory illness similar to flu. So, it is impossible to tell for sure if you have flu based on symptoms alone. If your doctor needs to know for sure whether you are sick with flu, there are laboratory tests that can be done.

What kinds of flu tests are there?

A number of tests are available to detect flu viruses in respiratory specimens. The most common are called “rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs).” RIDTs work by detecting the parts of the virus (antigens) that stimulate an immune response. These tests can provide results within approximately 10-15 minutes but may not be as accurate as other flu tests. Therefore, you could still have flu, even though your rapid test result is negative. Other flu tests called “rapid molecular assays” detect genetic material of the flu virus. Rapid molecular assays produce results in 15-20 minutes and are more accurate than RIDTs.

In addition to RIDTs and rapid molecular assays, there are several more accurate flu tests available that must be performed in specialized laboratories, such as hospital and public health laboratories. These tests include reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), viral culture, and immunofluorescence assays. All of these tests require that a health care provider swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab and then send the swab for testing. Results may take one to several hours.

How well can rapid tests detect flu?

During a flu outbreak, a positive rapid flu test is likely to indicate flu virus infection. However, rapid tests vary in their ability to detect flu viruses, depending on the type of rapid test used, and on the type of flu viruses circulating. Also, rapid tests appear to be better at detecting flu in children than in adults. This variation in ability to detect viruses can result in some people who are infected with flu having a negative rapid test result. This situation is called a false negative test result. Despite a negative rapid test result, your health care provider may diagnose you with flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment.

Will my health care provider test me for flu if I have flu-like symptoms?

While your doctor may test you for flu, not everyone who goes to the doctor with flu-like symptoms will be tested. After evaluating you, your doctor may choose to diagnose you with flu without the need for testing based on your symptoms and his or her own clinical judgement.

Difference Between Flu and COVID-19

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. You cannot tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone because some of the symptoms are the same. Some PCR tests can differentiate between flu and COVID-19 at the same time. If one of these tests is not available, many testing locations provide flu and COVID-19 tests separately. Talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested for both flu and COVID-19 if you have symptoms.

Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to have flu as well as other respiratory illnesses including COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.

Is there a test that can detect both flu and COVID-19?

Yes. There is a test that will check for seasonal flu type A and B viruses and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This test is being used by U.S. public health laboratories for surveillance purposes. Testing for these viruses at the same time will give public health officials important information about how flu and COVID-19 are spreading and what prevention steps should be taken. The test will also help public health laboratories save time and testing materials, and possibly to return test results faster.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given CDC an Emergency Use Authorization for this new test. Initial test kits were sent to public health laboratories in early August 2020. CDC will continue to manufacture and distribute these kits.

Buy Yourself Flowers This Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again, when the shops are overrun with heart-shaped cards and decorations and chocolate and romantic songs are playing on repeat. That’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day, and it’s all about celebrating the people you love, but don’t forget about the most important relationship of all: the one you have with yourself. Buy yourself some flowers to remind yourself that you are worthy of love and care. Grab your wallet and get ready to treat yourself like royalty, because it’s time to spread the love—to yourself!

  • Flowers have been found to have a positive impact on emotions, and buying yourself flowers can serve as an act of self care and self compassion 
  • On Valentine’s Day, self-care techniques can help relieve loneliness and isolation. This can include activities such as treating yourself to a nice meal, taking a relaxing bath, or engaging in a hobby or activity you enjoy. 
  • Self-compassion is an effective method for coping with difficult emotions. It means treating yourself with tenderness, compassion, and understanding, as well as accepting your feelings. 
  • Reframing is a CBT skill that can help change the way you think about a situation or experience by looking at it from a different perspective. This can help challenge negative thoughts and reduce feelings of loneliness and sadness. 

Valentine’s Day can be a difficult occasion for many people, particularly for those who may be feeling lonely or going through a difficult time in their relationships. The holiday can bring up feelings of sadness and longing and can serve as a reminder of what one may be missing in their life. The pressure to have a romantic partner or to be in a happy relationship can also contribute to stress on this day. It’s important to focus on self-care, self-compassion, and self-nurturing during this time, so why not give yourself a beautiful bouquet of flowers as an act of self-care?

Buy yourself a beautiful bouquet

On Valentine’s Day, it’s common to see bouquets of flowers being delivered to loved ones, but have you ever considered sending flowers to yourself? A growing trend among women is to treat themselves to a beautiful bouquet on the holiday of love.

It is estimated that 15% of women in the United States buy flowers for themselves for Valentine’s Day. This is a reminder that self-love and self-care are just as important as showing love to others, especially on a day when love is celebrated.

Prioritize self-care

Self-care is an important part of living a healthy, well-balanced life. This can include your physical, mental, and emotional health, among other things. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to neglect one or all of these areas, leading to feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction. Incorporating self-care into your daily routine can be as simple as setting aside time for rest, going for a walk in nature, or indulging in a relaxing cup of tea. The main objective of self-care is to keep yourself healthy and happy.

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is essential because it enables us to be kind and forgiving to ourselves, particularly during challenging circumstances. Instead of being harsh and critical towards ourselves, self-compassion helps us to acknowledge and accept our emotions and experiences, allowing us to heal and grow in a more positive and healthy way. It also helps to build resilience, improve our mental well-being, and foster a sense of connectedness. Practicing self-compassion can be particularly helpful during a holiday such as Valentine’s Day, where societal pressures and expectations can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and sadness.

Steps for practicing self-compassion:

  • Be present. Take time to be in the present and focus on the moment through mindfulness practices.
  • Practice hobbies. Engage in activities that provide you with joy and satisfaction.
  • Protect your emotions. Establish clear boundaries and prioritize self-care by declining commitments that drain your energy.
  • Forgive yourself. Show compassion towards yourself by letting go of any guilt or shame that you might be carrying.
  • Be kind. Recognize that everyone faces challenges and imperfections, and focus on the positive aspects of your life through gratitude.

Flowers as a form of self-care

Flowers have been used for centuries as a symbol of beauty and love. They have the ability to lift one’s spirits and bring a sense of joy and peace. Flowers have been found to have a positive impact on emotions, promoting feelings of happiness and well-being, as well as having a soothing effect on the mind, which can reduce stress and anxiety. Another benefit of flowers is that they are a natural way to beautify your surroundings. They add color and life to a room, making it more inviting and comfortable.

What if you’re lonely and sad?

Valentine’s Day can be hard for people who are not in a relationship. It can be a very vulnerable time and bring up a lot of feelings and memories. It’s normal to feel down on Valentine’s Day if you don’t have a partner, but you should remember that you have the power to change how you feel and not let it take over.

Here are some coping strategies and techniques to make the day more enjoyable.

CBT self-help techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that shows how thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. CBT helps people figure out how their negative thinking and actions are making them feel bad and change them. CBT is based on the idea that we can control our negative thoughts and feelings by changing how we think and act. People can use CBT self-help techniques on their own to deal with their symptoms and improve their health.

Some common CBT self-help techniques include:

  • Challenge your negative thoughts. When you have negative thoughts about yourself or your situation, be aware of them and question them by looking for more positive and balanced thoughts, which will automatically change your feelings.
  • Reframing. Reframing is a strategy for adjusting your perception of a situation or event. Instead of dwelling on feeling alone on Valentine’s Day, you can choose to focus on the benefits of being single, such as the ability to make your own plans and enjoy independence. You could also try reframing by focusing on the love and relationships you already have in your life, such as with friends and family.
  • Positive self-talk. Using positive affirmations, such as “I am worthy of love and happiness,” “I can handle this difficult emotion,” and “I am strong and capable,” is a CBT technique called positive self-talk. This technique helps to challenge negative thoughts and shift them to a more positive perspective, which can improve your mood and decrease feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Beware of social media

If you are struggling on Valentine’s Day, social media can be a negative influence because it can highlight other people’s romantic relationships and happiness, which can really bring you down. Seeing posts about romantic gestures, gifts, and declarations of love can make you feel like you are missing out or that you don’t deserve a relationship.

One way to deal with the negative effects of social media on Valentine’s Day is to take a break from it. Allow yourself to put down your phone and focus on your own feelings and desires. Try setting a reminder to turn off your phone or putting it in “Do Not Disturb” mode for a few hours, or even just for the day. This can be a helpful way to practice self-care and give yourself a break from the constant comparison and pressure that social media can bring.

Ideas for self-care on Valentine’s Day

As well as buying yourself flowers, there are countless ways to practice self-care on Valentine’s Day.

Some ideas include:

  • Try meditation and mindfulness techniques.
  • Go to the gym for the evening.
  • Indulge in a soothing spa day or massage.
  • Soak in a warm bath with essential oils and nice candles.
  • Spend time outside enjoying nature.
  • Enjoy a favorite movie or read a nice book.
  • Prepare a tasty dinner for yourself.
  • Keep a journal and write down how you feel.
  • Try painting or sketching.

Valentine’s Day can be a challenging time for those who are alone or feeling lonely, but it’s important to remember that self-care should always be a priority. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and take the time to engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Remember that you are worthy and valuable, regardless of your relationship status. So, buy yourself flowers, enjoy your own company, and make this Valentine’s Day special.