Putting our region's cancer needs first

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with about 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Most women diagnosed are over 50, but younger women can also develop breast cancer.

It’s vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always have any changes examined by a GP.

Early detection gives a good chance of recovery. 

In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.



Female breast cancer is the most prevalent recorded cancer across every North West county – this is broadly in line with the national incidence rate; the North West’s incidence rate for breast cancer is 4% over that of the rest of England. In particular, Cumbria and Cheshire experience markedly higher rates of breast cancer than the rest of the North West Counties, with recorded incidence rates 16% and 13% higher than the national average, respectively.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in North Wales. People in Denbighshire reported the highest breast cancer rates, with incidence rates 33% higher than the national average. Conwy also experienced high levels of breast cancer, with rates 32% higher than the rest of Wales. In comparison, Wrexham recorded incidences of breast cancer 22% higher than the Welsh average.



There are several different types of breast cancer, developing in different parts of the breast.

Breast cancer often divides into either: 

  • Non-invasive breast cancer (carcinoma in situ) – found in the breast ducts (ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS) which has not spread into the breast tissue surrounding the ducts. Non-invasive breast cancer is usually found during a mammogram and rarely shows as a breast lump.
  • Invasive breast cancer – where the cancer cells have spread through the lining of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue. This is the most common type of breast cancer.

Other, less common types of breast cancer include:

• invasive (and pre-invasive) lobular breast cancer
• inflammatory breast cancer
• Paget's disease of the breast

Breast cancer can spread to other body parts, usually through the blood or the axillary lymph nodes. These tiny lymphatic glands filter bacteria and cells from the mammary gland. If this happens, it's known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer. 



Breast cancer can have many symptoms, but the first noticeable one will likely be a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it's always best to have them checked by a doctor.

You should also see a GP if you notice any of these symptoms:


  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • discharge from either of your nipples, which may have blood in it
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • dimpling on the skin
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, or it becoming sunken into your breast
  • breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer


The exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, so it is hard to say why one woman may develop breast cancer and one not. However, certain factors are known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Risk increases with age and if there is a family history of breast cancer. A previous breast cancer diagnosis or non-cancerous (benign) breast lump can lead to a future diagnosis. Being tall, overweight, or obese can be a contributing factor to breast cancer. Drinking alcohol also increases risk.



You may be diagnosed with breast cancer after noticing symptoms and visiting the GP or after a routine breast examination. If you notice any of the symptoms above, visit a GP as soon as possible. 

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests, including mammography or a breast tissue biopsy, which are examined under a microscope. 



When breast cancer is detected early, it can be treated before it spreads to other body parts through a combination of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. Surgery is usually the first type of treatment, followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy and, in some cases, targeted or hormone therapies. 

The diagnosis and the stage of cancer determine the type of treatment plan you receive. 

Most breast cancers are discovered early, but a few women find they have breast cancer after it has spread to other parts of the body. If this is the case, the treatment type used may differ. 


If you have any concerns about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, please visit your GP. 

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