Breast cancer does not affect only elderly people. Ages of 40s and 50s (and sometimes even younger) is when breast becomes more of a risk ) This age is the age range of a great number of family caregivers.

So be aware of the many changes that occur in your breasts during your lifetime.

According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure ( in 2015, it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be:

  • 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer
  • 40,290 breast cancer deaths
  • One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime

When it comes to preventing breast cancer, early detection and treatment offer the best defense against dying from breast cancer.

To guard against breast cancer, It's important to understand which changes in your breast are normal and which are not.

Signs to look for

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin on the breast
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot of the breast that does not go away

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away. In most cases, these changes are not cancer. For example, breast pain is more common with benign breast conditions than with breast cancer. However, the only way to know for sure is to see your doctor. If breast cancer is present, it is best to find it at an early stage, when the cancer is most treatable.

Browse Our Free Senior Care Guides

Precautions to take against breast cancer

According to Breast Cancer .org ( self examination is the best way to check any abnormalities. Susan G. Komen for the Cure agrees, but recommends additional steps. All women over 40 should get:

  • Mammogram
  • Clinical breast examine (which can be done during a yearly gynecology visit)

5 Steps of Self Breast Exam

Step 1: Look at your breasts in the mirror, with shoulders straight and arms on your hips. Look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor's attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Raise your arms and look for the same changes.

Step 3: While you're at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).

Step 4: Feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.

Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women.

Step 5: Feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find the shower is the easier place to do this, when skin is wet and slippery.

Know what is normal for you

One reason the organization cites is that the signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. It is important to know how your breasts normally look and feel. Many women have a pattern of lumpiness in their breasts, which is normal. But if you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms, ask your health care provider to examine the area.