Breast Cancer

More than 500 Oklahoma women die of breast cancer each year, but early detection saves lives.

Although great progress has been made in breast cancer research and treatment, more than 500 Oklahoma women die from breast cancer every year.  Women over the age of 40 should have annual mammograms.

Symptoms:
Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast exams are important. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:

  • Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt
  • Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple -- for example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange
  • Fluid coming from the nipple -- may be bloody, clear-to-yellow, or green, and look like pus

Men get breast cancer, too. Symptoms include breast lump, breast pain and tenderness.

Symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include:

  • Bone pain
  • Breast pain or discomfort
  • Skin ulcers
  • Swelling of one arm (next to breast with cancer)
  • Weight loss 

Signs and tests:
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and risk factors, and then perform a physical exam, which includes both breasts, armpits, and the neck and chest area.

Additional tests may include:

  • Mammography to help identify the breast lump
  • Breast MRI to help better identify the breast lump
  • Breast ultrasound to show whether the lump is solid or fluid-filled
  • Breast biopsy , needle aspiration, or breast lump removal to remove all or part of the breast lump for closer examination by a laboratory specialist
  • CT scan
  • Sentinal lymph node biopsy
  • PET scan

If your doctor learns that you do have breast cancer, additional tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. Staging helps guide future treatment and follow-up and gives you some idea of what to expect in the future.

Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV. Breast cancer that has not spread is called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or noninvasive breast cancer. If it spreads, the cancer is called invasive breast cancer. The higher the number, the more advanced the cancer.

Mammogram Programs
There are programs that provide free mammograms at the OU Breast Institute for uninsured and underinsured women in Oklahoma who cannot afford a mammogram.  To determine eligibility, based on income and family size, contact the OU Breast Institute at (405) 271-4514.

Additional Resources

Comprehensive Breast Cancer Information

OU Breast Institute

Womens Cancer Programs

Stephenson Cancer Center