Breast cancer occurs when cells in a woman's breast tissue start to grow abnormally and have the potential to spread outside the breast.
There are several different types of breast cancer:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) are non-invasive breast cancers that are confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast.
- Invasive ductal or lobular carcinoma is an invasive breast cancer that starts in the ducts or lobules of the breast and can spread into the breast tissue.
- Invasive breast cancer may be confined to the breast and lymph nodes in the armpit (early breast cancer) or may have spread outside the breast to other parts of the body (secondary breast cancer or metastatic disease).
- Paget’s disease of the nipple is a rare form of breast cancer that affects the nipple and the area around the nipple (the areola) and is commonly associated with an invasive cancer elsewhere in the breast.
- Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of invasive breast cancer that affects the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast, causing the breast to become red and inflamed.
Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms but often shows as a lump or thickening in the breast tissue, although most breast lumps are not cancerous. If you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Outcomes for women with breast cancer are improving over time. This is probably due to early detection through screening and more effective treatments.
BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program. It provides free screening to all women over 40, and specifically targets women aged 50-69 years. To make an appointment phone 13 20 50.
Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) can provide more information on breast cancer through their website www.bcna.org.au, or by calling their information line on 1800 500 258.
Personal story: breast cancer
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be both emotionally and practically challenging. Listening to others who have experienced similar situations is often re-assuring and can be helpful for you, your loved ones or when preparing questions for your doctor or a specialist.
Watch this video about Tess's experience after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
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