Breast cancer

About 48,000 women get breast cancer in Britain each year. Most (8 in 10) are over 50, but younger women, and in rare cases, men, can also get breast cancer.

If cancer is detected at an early stage, it can be treated before it spreads to nearby parts of the body.

Signs and symptoms

Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but usually shows as a lump or thickening in the breast tissue; although most breast lumps are not cancerous.

Possible symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in your breast or armpit
  • Nipple changes
  • Changes to the skin of your breast
  • Changes in the shape or size of your breast
  • Pain in your breast or armpit

If you notice any of these symptoms, go and see your doctor immediately. It is important to get to know how your breasts look and feel normally, so that you’ll find it easier to spot something unusual.

Breast screening

The exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, but many factors increase the likelihood of developing it, including age and family history of breast cancer.

Women who have a higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer may be offered screening and genetic testing for the condition. As the risk of breast cancer increases with age, all women aged 50–70 are invited for breast cancer screening every three years. Women over 70 are also entitled to screening and can arrange an appointment through their GP or local screening unit.

Read more information about breast cancer screening

Breast cancer in over 70s

One in 3 women who get breast cancer are over 70. A lump isn’t the only sign of breast cancer.

If you notice any changes in your breasts, it’s important that you contact your doctor straight away. You’re not wasting anyone’s time and it’s much better to be sure, if only to put your mind at rest.

Finding breast cancer early makes it more treatable. A trip to your doctor’s surgery could save your life. And if a friend or relative says they have any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.

Be Clear on Cancer – find out more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and how you can be screened.