Skip to Main Content

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

UT Extension TEAM Up Tennessee

Frequently Used Tools:

TEAM UP Tennessee: Breast Cancer Facts

What is Breast Cancer?

Mortality Rates

U.S. and Tennessee Age-Adjusted Cancer Incidence and Mortality Rates by Race/Ethnicity, Breast Cancer per 100,000, 1997-2001 ¹,²
Race Incidence US Incidence TN Mortality US Mortality TN
All women 136.7 115.7 27.0 27.4
Caucasian 137.0 117.0 26.4 25.9
African-American 120.7 104.5 35.4 38.3
Hispanic 82.6 - 17.2 38.3
Other   74.4   12.3

Scope of the Problem ¹

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis among women, other than skin cancer.
  • It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
  • The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about one in eight.
  • Breast cancer death rates are going down. This decline is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and improved treatment.
  • Just being a woman puts one at risk for breast cancer. Increasing age in another risk factor.
  • Lifestyle behaviors such as diet, alcohol consumption, and obesity are also associated with higher risk.
  • One in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • The incidence of breast cancer has increased over the past twenty years, partly due to improved screening rates. The mortality rate for all females has decreased.
  • African American women have greater mortality rates than Caucasian women.
  • For Tennessee, the mortality rates for both African American women and Caucasian women fall below national mortality rates.

Picture of a mammogram.Symptoms

The earliest sign of breast cancer is an abnormality that is detected on a mammogram before it can be felt by the woman or her doctor. When breast cancer has grown, physical signs and symptoms may include: a breast lump, thickening, swelling, distortion, tenderness, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain, scaliness, ulceration or retraction. Breast pain is commonly due to non-cancerous conditions and is not usually the first symptom of breast cancer.


Taking into account the medical circumstances and the patient’s preferences, treatment may involve lumpectomy (local removal of the tumor) and removal of the lymph nodes under the arm; mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast) and removal of the lymph nodes under the arm; radiation therapy; chemotherapy; or hormone therapy. Often, two or more methods are used in combination. Significant advances in reconstruction techniques provide several options for breast reconstruction immediately after a mastectomy.


  • Community education addressing
    • importance of clinical breast exams and mammograms
    • myths about the disease and barriers to screening
    • reluctance and fear
    • healthier lifestyles regarding exercise and dietary habits
    • early detection through annual screening of all women
    • screening services of the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program
  • Community partnerships targeting underserved populations for education and referral, especially women 40 and older, and working with the healthcare community to offer screening to women who do not access healthcare.
  • Primary care physicians recommending the mammogram for age-appropriate women.


1. Source: Tennessee Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan 2005-2008

2. Hyphens represent suppression of rates when there were 75,000 or fewer persons in the denominator or 20 or fewer deaths in the numerator.