What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK and 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with it at some point in their lifetime. Approximately 50,000 women in the UK are diagnosed every year and although it is far more rare for men around 400 will be diagnosed annually.

Breast cancer occurs when the cells in the breast start growing in an uncontrolled way and a tumour is formed. Although we do not know the exact causes of breast cancer there are certain factors that can play a part such as family history, diet and age.

There are several different types of breast cancer but it is usually split into either non-invasive or invasive. Non-invasive breast cancer is found in the ducts of the breast and is unable to spread. The more common type is invasive breast cancer that develops in the cells lining the ducts of the breast. This type is also able to spread to other parts of the body.

There are various different signs of breast cancer including:

• a lump in the breast
• a change in the size or shape of the breast
• a lump or swelling in the armpits
• a rash on or around the nipple
• a dimpling of the skin on the breast
• a change in the appearance of a nipple such as an inversion

There is a very good chance of recovery if the cancer is spotted early and that is why it is vitally important that women check their breasts regularly. The vast majority of lumps are not cancerous but should still be checked by a doctor.

Although 78% of women with breast cancer survive for 10 years or more, there are still over 11,000 deaths a year in the UK alone from the disease.

**Statistics from Cancer Research UK and the Office for National Statistics.