Breast cancer

Breast cancer is cancer in the cells of the breast. It is most commonly diagnosed on screening mammograms in women without symptoms.

Early breast cancer detection with screening mammograms, combined with a better understanding of the different types of breast cancer and the availability of targeted treatments, have significantly improved our diagnosis, treatment and survival rates. You don’t have to let a breast cancer diagnosis stop you from living your extraordinary life.

Providing better breast cancer care

Early breast cancer detection with screening mammograms, combined with a better understanding of the different types of breast cancer and the availability of targeted treatments, have significantly improved our diagnosis, treatment and survival rates.

You don’t have to let a breast cancer diagnosis stop you from living your extraordinary life.

Expert diagnosis and treatment at UCHealth

If you are concerned about possible symptoms like a lump in your breast, our breast imaging specialists will promptly perform a diagnostic evaluation that may include a mammogram and ultrasound.

If you have already been diagnosed with breast cancer and have been referred to us, our multidisciplinary breast cancer team is ready to help.

Breast cancer: what you should know

Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer diagnosis in women, affecting more than 260,000 women in the U.S. every year.

There are several risk factors for breast cancer, although many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors. Regular screening mammography helps detect a breast cancer at an early, treatable, and curable stage. Breast cancer survival rates continue to improve, with 5-year survival over 90%.

If you are concerned about possible symptoms like a lump in your breast, our breast imaging specialists will promptly perform a diagnostic evaluation that may include a mammogram and ultrasound. Our breast cancer specialists have deep experience to accurately diagnose your case.

If you have already been diagnosed with breast cancer and have been referred to us, our multidisciplinary breast cancer team is ready to help. Our program has experts in breast surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology as well as plastic surgery who dedicate their practices to treating breast cancer. We also offer integrative medicine specialists who can incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your personalized treatment plan.

At UCHealth, the same caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields—including our elite, Magnet-designated nursing staff—work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare. In addition, our special breast cancer nurse navigator helps guide you through the entire process.

Your multidisciplinary medical team might include:

  • Behavioral health professionals
  • Care team assistants
  • Genetic counselors
  • Hereditary cancer specialists
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists
  • Mammography technologists
  • Medical assistants
  • Medical oncologists
  • Nurses or registered nurses (RNs)
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs)
  • Pathologists
  • Physical therapists
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Social workers
  • Surgical oncologists

Patient with Mammography Technologist

Breast cancer programs at UCHealth

UCHealth Hereditary Cancer Clinic in metro Denver provides early screenings, risk assessments and education to preserve and support the health of patients who have a higher hereditary risk of cancer.

The Young Women’s Breast Cancer Program at The Borges Lab is focused on the development of novel vaccines and combination immunotherapy for breast cancer as well as potential biologic differences and therapeutic targets for young women’s breast cancer.

 

Breast cancer ranges from early, noninvasive types to more aggressive types that can spread to other parts of the body.

Ductal carcinoma. The most common type of breast cancers begin with cells in milk-producing ducts, called ductal carcinoma. Ductal carcinoma can be contained inside the duct or non-invasive. This type is called ductal carcinoma in situ. When the cancer cells spread outside of the duct into the surrounding breast tissue, it is called invasive ductal carcinoma.

Invasive lobular carcinoma. The second most common type of breast cancer begins in the glandular tissue, called invasive lobular carcinoma. Invasive lobular carcinoma can be more challenging to find on a mammogram as it tends to blend into the surrounding breast tissue making it more difficult to see.

Lobular carcinoma in situ is not considered a breast cancer. It is a finding in the breast that tells us a woman has a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the future. Our Breast Cancer Risk Assessment and Prevention Program is available for women concerned about their breast cancer risk.

Breast cancer in men. Breast cancer can also affect men, although at significantly lower rates than women. Mammograms are not recommended for men. However, men who feel a breast lump should seek evaluation. Our breast center has expertise in breast imaging and treating men with breast cancer.

snowboarder walking with board

What are the causes of breast cancer?

For most patients, we are not able to pinpoint what caused their breast cancer. Although we have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that can increase the risk of breast cancer, some people with these risk factors never develop it while some people who have no risk factors do develop it. Only about 10% of breast cancers are hereditary.

Gene mutations

We estimate that 5% to 10% of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family. The most well-known mutations are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), both of which significantly increase the risk of both breast, ovarian cancer, and other cancers. If your family has a history of breast cancer or other cancers, you should consider getting a blood test to help identify specific mutations in BRCA or other genes. Your primary care provider can give you a referral to a genetic counselor who can discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing.

Mother and Daughter

Risk factors

  • A family history of breast cancer and certain inherited genes
  • A personal history of breast conditions or breast cancer
  • Being female
  • Beginning menopause at an older age
  • Beginning your period before age 12
  • Dense breasts
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Having never been pregnant
  • Having your first child after age 30
  • Increasing age
  • Obesity
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy
  • Radiation exposure in childhood or young adulthood

What are the types of breast cancer?

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
  • Inflammatory
  • Invasive ductal cancer
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) – this is not breast cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Paget’s disease of the breast
  • Rare types:  Angiosarcoma
  • Recurrent breast cancer
  • Special types:
    • Mucinous
    • Secretory
    • Tubular

How do I check for breast cancer?

You should get regular screening mammograms. Regular mammograms are recommended to help find breast cancer before you can even feel a lump. It is important to be aware of what your normal breast feels like and to note any changes. If you have any concerns, your provider can perform an exam to check for breast cancer.

Does breast cancer hurt?

Almost always not. However, some types of breast cancer can cause pain in the early stages in lumps, nipples, lymph nodes or general pain.

What is the survival rate for breast cancer?

For all stages of breast cancer combined, the 5-year relative survival rate is 90%. For localized only where cancer has not spread outside the breast, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%.

Source: American Cancer Society

Woman and dog playing

How do I reduce the risk of breast cancer?

If you are at an average risk for breast cancer, you can help reduce your risk with these steps:

  • Eat a healthy Mediterranean diet.
  • Exercise most days of the week (at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week).
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

If you are at a high risk, talk to your doctor about these options:

  • Enhanced screening. Some women at higher risk for breast cancer can consider supplementing their annual mammogram with an annual MRI or other advanced imaging technologies.
  • Preventive medications (chemoprevention).
  • Preventive surgery. You may choose to have your healthy breasts removed (prophylactic mastectomy), and to have your healthy ovaries removed (prophylactic oophorectomy) to reduce the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer. These preventive surgeries are typically only considering for women with known hereditary cancers.

Can men get breast cancer?

Yes, but it is far less common than in women. The lifetime risk for men is about 1 in 833.

Source: American Cancer Society

What is the ribbon color for breast cancer?

Pink, as established by Susan G. Komen for the Cure® in 1982.

When is breast cancer awareness month?

October.