News | Published October 5, 2020 | Written by Allison Yingling, MD, radiology, Mount Nittany Health Breast Care Center, and Anna Hood, MD, radiology, Mount Nittany Health Breast Care Center

Breast cancer: Understanding the risk factors and how to detect breast cancer early

Diagnosed every two minutes, one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Understanding the risk factors associated with breast cancer as well as how to detect breast cancer early is key to staying healthy and improving your chances of surviving breast cancer.

The main risk factors of developing breast cancer include gender and age. Breast cancer is 100 times more likely to occur among women than men. In addition, as a person gets older, their risk increases, with most breast cancers being diagnosed after age 50. Although some risk factors, such as gender, age and other genetic factors, cannot be changed, there are other risk factors that you can address to help reduce your chances of getting breast cancer. Ways to reduce your risk include maintaining a healthy weight, keeping up with regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet, including foods full of healthy nutrients such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limiting the amount of alcohol you consume and being tobacco-free can also lower your chances of developing breast cancer.

If breast cancer develops, early detection is critical. Breast cancer in its early stages, when it is small and has not spread, is easier to successfully treat. Two ways to help detect breast cancer early include mammograms and breast self-awareness.


A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast. Routine mammograms can help detect breast cancer early, even before symptoms develop. The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommend that women get yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Routine mammograms should continue as long as a woman is in good health with a life expectancy of five to 10 years.

Breast self-awareness

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women be knowledgeable of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as become familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel in order to detect if there are any changes. If you notice any of the following changes, please contact your doctor immediately:

  • A lump or mass in the breast
  • Any changes in the size or shape of the breast
  • Swelling in or around the breast or armpit
  • Skin of the breast or nipple feels thicker or is red or scaly
  • Dimpling on the breast, nipple retraction
  • Nipple discharge, particularly clear discharge or bloody discharge
  • Breast pain, particularly pain that is focal (not diffuse) and persistent

Mount Nittany Health’s Breast Care Center, located at Mount Nittany Health – Park Avenue, is dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate care for our patients and their breast care needs. Our Breast Care Center offers digital mammograms, including tomosynthesis, also known as 3D digital mammography, which allows for better clarity compared to traditional mammograms. In addition, the Breast Care Center offers a number of other services including breast ultrasounds, breast MRI, needle localizations, biopsies and bone density scans.

For more information about breast cancer and Mount Nittany Health’s Breast Care Center, visit or call 814.234.6106. To learn more about the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer screening guidelines, visit

Allison Yingling, MD, is a provider at the Mount Nittany Health Breast Care Center. Dr. Yingling received her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, completed her internship at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, and completed her diagnostic radiology residency at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Dr. Yingling is fellowship trained in breast imaging and intervention from George Washington University Medical Center and is a member of the American College of Radiology.

Anna Hood, MD, is a provider at the Mount Nittany Health Breast Care Center. Dr. Hood obtained her medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas, completed her internship at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, and completed her diagnostic radiology residency at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Hood is fellowship trained in breast imaging from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is certified by the American Board of Radiology and is a member of the Society of Breast Imaging, the Radiological Society of North America, American College of Radiology, and the American Roentgen Ray Society.

First published in Town and Gown