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Breast cancer


Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50, but younger women can also get breast cancer.

About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. There's a good chance of recovery if it's detected in its early stages.

For this reason, it's vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP.

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

Symptoms of breast cancer

Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.

Most breast lumps aren't cancerous, but it's always best to have them checked by your doctor.

You should also see your GP if you notice any of the following:

  • 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 isn't usually a symptom of breast cancer.

Read more about the symptoms of breast cancer.

Causes of breast cancer

The exact causes of breast cancer aren't fully understood. However, there are certain factors known to increase the risk of breast cancer.

These include:

  • age – the risk increases as you get older
  • a family history of breast cancer
  • a previous diagnosis of breast cancer
  • a previous benign breast lump
  • being tall, overweight or obese
  • drinking alcohol

Read more about the causes of breast cancer.

Preventing breast cancer

As the causes of breast cancer aren't fully understood, at the moment it's not possible to know if it can be prevented.

If you're at increased risk of developing the condition, some treatments are available to reduce the risk.

Studies have looked at the link between breast cancer and diet. Although there are no definite conclusions, there are benefits for women who:

It's been suggested that regular exercise can reduce your risk of breast cancer by as much as a third. Regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle can also improve the outlook for people affected by breast cancer. 

For more information about breast cancer click here.

For information on other screening programmes click here

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In emergencies dial 999 / Non-emergencies dial 111

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