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Breast cancer

3-minute read

Breast cancer occurs when cells in a woman's breast tissue start to grow abnormally and have the potential to spread outside the breast.

Types of breast cancer include:

  • 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.

Breast cancer is often treated using differing combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Sometimes breast cancer may also be treated using biological or hormone treatments.

There is a good chance of recovery if breast cancer is detected in its early stages, so it is important to check your breasts regularly for any changes. After a period can be a good time to do this.

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 aged 40 and over every two years, and specifically targets women aged 50-74 years because the evidence of benefit is strongest in this age group.

To make an appointment phone 13 20 50.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) can provide more information on breast cancer through their website, 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.

Read the related video transcript >

More information about this video >

Video Copyright: ©2013 University of Oxford. Used under licence from DIPEx. All rights reserved.

Last reviewed: July 2018

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