Breast cancer

Specialty of Obstetrics & gynaecology

Breast cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the cells of the breasts, mainly in women but men can also be affected. It is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with approximately one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, and around one in 870 men develop it. Although it is the most common form of cancer, the recovery rate is high if the cancer is discovered early.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The most notable symptom of breast cancer is the formation of a lump anywhere in the breast area from below the armpits to the centre of the chest. It may appear as a physical lump, or the thickening of breast tissue.


Other symptoms include changes in the size or shape of the breasts, dimpling of the skin of the armpits, a rash around the nipples, discharge from the nipples, or a sunken area in either of the breasts.

What are the causes of breast cancer?

The causes of breast cancer are not known, however it is understood that there are certain factors that can cause an increase in the risk of developing breast cancer.

People more at risk of breast cancer include:

  • Those aged over 50 years old
  • Those with a family history of breast cancer
  • Patients who have previously had breast cancer
  • Patients who have had a previous benign breast lump
  • Tall people are slightly more at risk from breast cancer
  • People who drink alcohol excessively
  • People who are overweight or obese

What are the different types of breast cancer?

Cancer can develop in different parts of the breast and in different ways.

The most common types of breast cancer are:

  • Non-invasive breast cancer (carcinoma in situ)


    Non-invasive breast cancer forms in the milk ducts within the breast. It does not grow to the normal surrounding tissues. This form of cancer is usually detected with a mammogram, and doesn’t usually show as a lump.
  • Invasive breast cancer


    Invasive breast cancer is the most common form of breast cancer, and also the most dangerous. This form of breast cancer can spread to the surrounding tissues. It often shows as a lump or thickening of the breast tissue.

How is breast cancer treated?

It is important to detect breast cancer early, as early detection means that it can be treated more effectively before it is able to spread.


Treatment usually consists of three components: surgery to remove part or all of the breast tissue where the cancer is located, known as either a mastectomy to remove the complete breast, or a lumpectomy to remove the lump. Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy to kill any remaining cancerous cells follows, along with the possibility of hormone or biological treatments.


To make an appointment with a breast cancer specialist, click here.

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