Professor Zoe Winters PhD (Oxon), FRCS (Edin), FCS (SA) SFHEA
Introduction to breast cancer
Around 48,000 women and 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year. It is also the most common cancer in women.
Breast cancer is usually detected by women being 'breast aware' and getting any unusual changes or lumps checked by a doctor. Breast cancers are also detected through NHS breast screening programmes using mammograms.
The outlook for someone diagnosed with breast cancer will usually be affected by how soon it is detected and the type of breast cancer. More than 85% of people diagnosed with breast cancer live for at least five years after they get their diagnosis. 75% live for at least 10 years.
Different types of breast cancer affect different parts of the breast in different ways. Types of breast cancer include:
Non-invasive breast cancer
Non-invasive breast cancer is cancer that has not spread outside the breast. It is also known as intraductal cancer. This cancer affects the ducts of the breast and has not developed the ability to spread outside the breast. The most common type of non-invasive breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS.
Detection of DCIS is usually through a breast screening mammogram rather than a lump being found during breast self-assessment checks.
Another non-invasive breast cancer is lobular carcinoma in situ, LCIS or lobular neoplasia. This cancer is caused by abnormal cells in the milk duct-producing breast lobules and rarely requires surgical treatment.
Invasive breast cancer
Invasive breast cancer is able to spread outside the breast. As many as 80% of breast cancer cases are invasive ductal types, also described as being of 'no special type', NST or NOS - 'not otherwise specified'.
Another invasive breast cancer is the invasive lobular type, which develops in cells lining the lobules.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Rarely, only 1-4% of breast cancers are inflammatory breast cancers. Breast tissue gets inflamed due to cancer cells blocking lymph channels which otherwise should be draining away excess lymph fluid.
Paget's disease develops in the nipple or areola surrounding the nipple and appears as a red, scaly rash, which may become itchy. It typically appears on top of the nipple rather than the areola.
Breast cancer can be treated using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Some cases of breast cancer may also be treated using biological or hormone treatments.
One in eight women are affected by breast cancer during their lifetime. There is a good chance of recovery, if it is detected in its' early stages. For this reason, it is vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP or breast cancer Consultant.