What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
Breast cancer can have several symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually 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 be streaked with blood
- A lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- Dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- A rash on or around your nipple
- A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.
What causes breast cancer?
The exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood. However, there are certain factors known to increase the risk of breast cancer:
- Age – the risk increases as you get older
- A family history of breast cancer
- A previous diagnosis of breast cancer
- A previous non-cancerous breast lump
- Being tall, overweight or obese
- Drinking alcohol
Diagnosing breast cancer
After examining your breasts, a GP may refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests. This might include breast screening or taking a small sample of breast tissue to be examined under a microscope.
Types of breast cancer:
There are many different types of breast cancer, which develop 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
- 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
Treating breast cancer:
If cancer is detected at an early stage, it can be treated before it spreads to other parts of the body. It is usually treated using a combination of: