Get the Facts about Breast Cancer

1 in 8 women get breast cancer in their lifetime.

A mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer. Talk to your health care provider.

Breast Cancer Screening and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to miss their mammograms. If you are due for a mammogram, do not wait. Call your health care provider to schedule your appointment as soon as you can. If you are having any symptoms of breast cancer, call your health care provider right away. Getting a mammogram regularly is the best way to find breast cancer early, when it may be easier to treat.

Health care providers are taking steps so that important health visits can happen safely. All staff and patients must wear masks and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before going in the office. Equipment, exam rooms and dressing rooms are cleaned after each patient. Other safety steps may include socially distanced waiting rooms, on-line check in, and more time added between appointments.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast but can travel to other areas of the body.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in New York State. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

All women can get breast cancer, but it is most often found in women ages 50 and older.

While very rare, men can also get breast cancer

What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to screen for cancer. Screening means checking for signs of cancer before there are symptoms or problems.

A mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early, when it may be easier to treat.

Call 866-442-CANCER (2262) or text GET SCREENED to 81336 to find out where to get a mammogram near you.

Mammograms and COVID-19 Vaccine

Talk to your health care provider about whether to schedule your screening mammogram before the first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine or 4-6 weeks after your final dose of vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines may cause swelling of lymph nodes in the armpit on the side of the body that the shot was given. This is normal and will go away over time. But swollen lymph nodes under the arm can also be a symptom of breast cancer and may show up on a mammogram. This may lead to more tests.

Do not delay your mammogram if you are having any problems with your breasts or have breast cancer symptoms. See your health care provider as soon as possible about your concerns. Together you will decide when is the right time for your mammogram.

Who Should Get Screened for Breast Cancer?

Women ages 50 to 74 years should get a mammogram every two years.

Some women should be screened for breast cancer younger than age 50.

Talk to your health care provider if you:

  • Are 40 to 49 years old
  • Have a family history of breast cancer
  • Have any changes in your breast or nipples such as swelling, irritation of breast skin, breast or nipple pain, nipple discharge

New York State Makes It Easy to Get Screened!

  • FREE breast cancer screenings are available for eligible New Yorkers
  • Many breast cancer screening locations are open late or on weekends to make it easier for you to get an appointment
  • New mobile mammography vans will bring screening to local communities

Talk to your health care provider. Together you can decide the best screening schedule for you.

What Are the Risks for Breast Cancer?

  • Being younger than 12 years old at first menstrual period
  • Starting menopause at an older age (55+)
  • Never giving birth or giving birth to your first child after age 30
  • Not breastfeeding
  • Having certain gene mutations such as BRCA1 or BRCA2
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Having had high levels of radiation exposure (x-rays) to the chest early in life
  • Taking hormone replacement therapy
  • Having dense breast tissue

What Are Dense Breasts?

After a mammogram, some women may be told they have dense breasts. Dense breasts (or dense breast tissue) are very common.

Dense breasts have less fatty tissue, which can make it harder to see signs of cancer on a mammogram.

Women with dense breasts should talk to their health care provider about their other risk factors for breast cancer and decide if more screening tests are needed.

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer may not cause symptoms, especially in the early stages. This is why regular mammograms are so important.

If there are symptoms of breast cancer, they can include:

  • Lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
  • Swelling in the breast or change in shape
  • Irritation of breast skin or nipple (itchiness, redness, flaky skin)
  • Dimples in breast skin
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple discharge (including blood) other than breast milk

If you have any of these symptoms, or anything else that worries you, talk to your health care provider.

Not Insured?

If you don't have insurance, you may still be able to get screened. The New York State Cancer Services Program offers free breast cancer screening for eligible, uninsured New York residents in every county and borough.

Call 1-866-442-CANCER (2262) to find a program near you.

Need health insurance? You can get information about enrolling in a health plan through the New York State of Health by calling the help line at 855.355.5777 or visit: