Around one in eight women develop breast cancer at some stage in their lives and about 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, including around 360 men. It's the most common cancer in women.
Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast tissue. Most cases occur in women over the age of 50 but breast cancer can occur in younger women. In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer develops from a cancerous (malignant) cell, which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
See the infographic. Speak your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
There are also factors that you cannot change. These include getting older, family history and inherited genes and other medical conditions.
For more information see breast cancer risk factors.
If you develop a lump or symptoms that may be breast cancer, a doctor will usually examine your breasts and armpits to look for any lumps or other changes. You will normally be referred to a specialist. Sometimes a biopsy of an obvious lump is arranged, but other tests may be done first such as:
Your treatment depends on where your cancer is, how big it is, whether it has spread anywhere else in your body, and your general health. A team of doctors and other professionals decide on the best treatment and care for you. It can include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiotherapy or targeted cancer drugs. For more information see breast cancer treatment.
Women in the UK aged between 50 and 70 are invited to have a routine mammography, every three years. This is gradually being extended to women aged 47-73.
Women in the UK aged between 50 and 70 registered with a GP are invited to have a routine mammography, every three years. This is gradually being extended to women aged 47 to 73.
Most experts agree that regular breast screening is beneficial in identifying breast cancer early. The earlier the condition is found, the better the chances are of surviving it.
Breast screening is carried out at special clinics or mobile breast screening units. The procedure is carried out by female members of staff who take mammograms.
During screening, your breasts will be X-rayed one at a time. The breast is placed on the X-ray machine and gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate. Two X-rays are taken of each breast at different angles.
After your breasts have been X-rayed, the mammogram will be checked for any abnormalities. The results of the mammogram will be sent to you and your GP, usually no later than two weeks after your appointment. Following screening, about one in 25 women will be called back for further assessment.
Being called back doesn't mean you definitely have cancer; the first mammogram may simply have been unclear. About one in four women who are called back for further assessment are diagnosed with breast cancer.