Breast Care

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Change Your Odds

Your risk for breast cancer depends on genetics, lifestyle and other factors. Reduce your risk with proven, personalized guidance for healthy living and prevention.

You’re in The Driver’s Seat

Regular screenings give you the best chance of finding breast cancer early and increasing your chances of successful treatment. We’ll show you how.

In Great Hands

Hormonal or biological therapies, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy - there are more lifesaving treatments to attack breast cancer today than ever before.


Washington's breast density notification law goes into effect on January 1, 2019. After receiving a mammogram, you will be notified if you have dense breasts. This information is meant to increase your awareness about your health and to encourage you to speak with your doctor about any concerns.

Dense breasts are a radiological finding and cannot be felt on a physical exam. Dense breasts are important for two reasons: they can make it more difficult for radiologists to detect cancers on a mammogram and they have been linked to a slightly higher breast cancer risk. About half of women have dense breasts, and it is considered normal.

Having dense breasts does not mean you're at a high risk of getting breast cancer. It's important to talk with your doctor about your overall breast cancer risk to determine if additional breast cancer screening is needed.

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The most common warning sign of breast cancer is a lump or mass in the breast or under the arm. Some other signs to be aware of include:

  • Swelling or abnormal thickening of the breast
  • Scaly or dimpling breast skin
  • Pain, discharge or retraction of the nipple

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Emotional support is an important part of your treatment. Support groups and community resources can help you and your loved ones get through your treatment and recovery.

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When you detect breast cancer early, you have more treatment options and a better chance for a cure. Here are some methods we recommend for screening.

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Being familiar with the feel and look of your breasts lets you immediately recognize when something is different or does not feel right. Self-exams let you learn what is normal for your breasts, especially as they change through the course of your life.

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Self-exams

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of your breasts used to find cancer before a lump can be felt. It can also help diagnose other breast problems. There are different clinical recommendations about when is the best time to start getting mammograms, but we suggest women begin getting yearly mammograms after age 40.

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Mammogram

Breast ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to look at the inside of your breasts.  Breast ultrasound is not usually done to screen for breast cancer, but it is often used when a change is seen on a mammogram or a change is felt but does not show up on a mammogram. 

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Ultrasound

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful tool for detecting breast cancers that mammography and ultrasound may miss. Because it can help measure the size of the cancer and look for other tumors, it may also be useful in planning the best treatment for women newly diagnosed with the disease.

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MRI

When a screening finds an abnormal lump or mass that could be cancer, a biopsy may be performed. This involves removing a small piece of tissue from the breast, either with a needle or during surgery, and checking it in a lab to see if cancer is present. A biopsy can also reveal details about the cancer that guide treatment decisions.

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Biopsies


There are many advanced therapies that can be combined and coordinated to treat breast cancer based on an individual’s needs.

Some cancer cells may remain after a tumor is removed by surgery. Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells left behind or keep them from growing. The type of radiation therapy given depends on the type and stage of cancer being treated.

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Radiation therapy

Given by mouth, infusion or injection, chemotherapy drugs either kill cancer cells or stop the cells from growing and spreading in the body. If the cancer is advanced and can’t be controlled, chemotherapy may be used to help ease symptoms and improve one’s quality of life.

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Chemotherapy

Certain cancer cells are affected by hormones, which help the cancer cells grow and spread. For some types of cancer, hormone therapy is used to stop hormones from getting to the tumor. Recent research shows these drugs are effective in helping prevent breast cancer among women at high risk.

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Hormone therapy

When a screening finds an abnormal lump or mass that could be cancer, a biopsy may be performed. This involves removing a small piece of tissue from the breast, either with a needle or during surgery, and checking it in a lab to see if cancer is present. A biopsy can also reveal details about the cancer that guide treatment decisions.

Learn more

Biopsies


Nearly all women with breast cancer have surgery as part of their cancer treatment. It’s done to remove as much of your cancer as possible and give you the best chance of becoming cancer-free.

Also called breast-conserving surgery, a lumpectomy keeps the breast intact. During this procedure, the surgeon removes only the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue. He or she may also remove some of the lymph nodes under the arm to see if the cancer has spread.

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Lumpectomy

Mastectomy is surgery to remove the whole breast and may be the best option depending on the type of cancer. A mastectomy can be done in several ways, and your surgeon will talk with you about which option they recommend for you.

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Mastectomy

This is additional surgery to rebuild the look and shape of the breast after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Deciding whether to restore the breast can be a difficult decision. Your care team can provide guidance about available options and what to expect.

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Breast restoration surgery


Your risk for breast cancer depends on a combination of factors, including:

  • Increasing age
  • Family or personal history of breast cancer
  • Inherited genetic mutations
  • Diet and obesity
  • Lifestyle habits

Your care team can identify your risk factors so you take the right actions to help reduce your risk.

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Inform yourself to make the best choices for your health and care with UW Medicine patient education resources.

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