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 important that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always have any changes examined by a GP. There’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected at an early stage.
In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.
BREAST CANCER IN OUR AREA
Cumbria has much higher rates of breast cancer than the rest of the North West, significantly over-indexing with breast cancer rates 9% higher than the national average.
In North Wales, three of the six counties we surveyed had markedly higher rates of breast cancer than the national average, with overall rates of breast cancer in North Wales 15% higher than the national average. Anglesey has a significantly higher incidence than the rest of Wales – with a 57% higher incidence rate than the rest of the country.
There are several different types of breast cancer, developing in different parts of the breast.
Breast cancer is often divided into either:
- non-invasive breast cancer (carcinoma in situ) – found in the ducts of the breast (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
It's possible for breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body, usually through the blood or the axillary lymph nodes. These are small lymphatic glands that 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 different 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 in to 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, there are certain factors known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Risk increases with age, as well as if there is a family history of breast cancer. A previous diagnosis of breast cancer or non-cancerous (benign) breast lump can lead to a future diagnosis. Being tall, overweight, or obese can be contributing factors to breast cancer. Drinking alcohol increases risk.
You may be diagnosed with breast cancer after noticing symptoms and visiting the GP, or after a routine breast examine.
Visit a GP as soon as possible if you notice any of the symptoms above.
You may be referred to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests, which might include mammography or a breast tissue biopsy, which will be examined under a microscope.
When breast cancer is detected early, it can be treated before it spreads to other parts of the body, through a combination of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and/or surgery. Surgery is usually the first time of treatment, followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy and, in some cases, targeted or hormone treatments.
The type of treatment plan you receive will be determined by the way the cancer was diagnosed and the stage it is at.
Most breast cancers are discovered early, but a small number of women discover they have breast cancer after it has spread to other parts of the body. If this is the case, the type of treatment used may be different.
If you have any concerns about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, please visit your GP.