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Breast cancer health centre

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What is breast cancer?

Around 55,200 women and men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year. Of these diagnoses around 390 are in men.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women.

Breast cancer is usually detected by women being ' breast aware' and getting any unusual changes or lumps checked by a doctor. Breast cancers are also detected through NHS breast screening programmes using mammograms.

The outlook for someone diagnosed with breast cancer will usually be affected by how soon it is detected and the type of breast cancer. Around 87% of people diagnosed with breast cancer live for at least five years after they get their diagnosis, with 78% living for at least 10 years.

Different types of breast cancer affect different parts of the breast in different ways. Types of breast cancer include:

Non-invasive breast cancer


Non-invasive means this cancer has not spread outside the breast. It is also known as intra ductal cancer. This cancer affects the ducts of the breast and has not developed the ability to spread outside the breast. The most common type of non-invasive breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS.

Detection of DCIS is usually through a breast screening mammogram rather than a lump being found during self-breast checks.

Another non-invasive breast cancer is lobular carcinoma in situ, LCIS or lobular neoplasia. This cancer is caused by abnormal cells in the milk producing breast lobules.

Invasive breast cancer

Invasive breast cancer is able to spread outside the breast. As many of 80% of breast cancer cases are invasive ductal breast cancers. This type of breast cancer is also described as being of 'no special type', NST or NOS - 'not otherwise specified'.

Another invasive breast cancer is invasive lobular breast cancer. This develops in cells lining the lobules.

Inflammatory breast cancer

Only 1-4% of breast cancers are inflammatory breast cancers. Breast tissue gets inflamed because of cancer cells blocking lymph channels which should be draining away excess fluid.

Paget's disease

Paget's disease develops in the nipple or areola surrounding the nipple, appearing as a red, scaly rash which may be itchy.

What causes breast cancer?

Following a diagnosis of breast cancer, it is not always clear what caused it. A person's risk of developing breast cancer ranges from genetic or inherited factors which cannot be influenced, to lifestyle factors, such as being overweight or consuming too much alcohol, which can.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on January 23, 2017

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