Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second-most common form of cancer for women, after skin cancer. Men can also get breast cancer, although such cases are rare.

Some people who have breast cancer have no signs or symptoms. Early detection can help you prevent breast cancer from spreading to other parts of your body.

Risk Factors

You are more likely to get breast cancer if you:

  • Are a woman (men can also get breast cancer, however it is rare)
  • Are older (the older you get, the higher your risk)
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • Have obesity
  • Drink alcohol
  • Take combination estrogen-progesterone hormone replacement therapy during menopause
  • Currently use certain birth control pills
  • Had breast cancer previously, or have a family history of breast cancer
  • Have a specific gene mutation for breast cancer, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2
  • Began menstruation early (before age 12) or menopause late (after age 55)

People with risk factors will not necessarily get breast cancer, and people without risk factors can still get it. We do not always know why some people get breast cancer and some people do not.

Know your risk factors and, when possible, take steps to address them.

Reducing Your Risk

To lower your risk of breast cancer:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce the amount and how often you drink alcohol.
  • Talk to your health care provider about risks associated with birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.


Routine screenings can help health care providers find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat.

The most common way to screen for breast cancer is a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of your breast. Mammograms can spot breast cancer before you can feel lumps in your breast.

Ask your health care provider about the benefits and risks of breast cancer screening and when to start screening. Some women need to be screened earlier than others, depending on their risk factors.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening mammography every two years for women between ages 40 and 74 who are at average risk of breast cancer. Other medical organizations may have different recommendations, such as getting screened every year. Your health care provider may recommend one of these options more strongly.

Women at any age should talk to their health care providers about their health and family history to see if they need earlier or more frequent screening. People who are trans or nonbinary should also ask if they should be screened.

You should be aware of how your breasts normally look and feel. This will help you notice when something is different. If you notice any changes, talk to your health care provider.

Where to Get a Mammogram

Most insurance plans cover cancer preventive services, such as a mammogram, without a copay. If you do not have insurance, you may be eligible to sign up for low- or no-cost health insurance. You can also get free in-person assistance signing up for a plan.

If you do not have a provider or need to find a low- or no-cost mammogram site, call 311 to find a screening site near you. You can also contact the New York State Cancer Services Program, which provides breast cancer screening to uninsured New Yorkers.

If you live in the city, are 40 or older and have not had a mammogram in the past year, you can get a free mammogram at the American-Italian Cancer Foundation’s Mobile Care Clinic.

Additional Resources

More Information