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Breast cancer

Breast cancer is more common in women aged 50 and over and only rarely happens in men. Most breast cancers are invasive, which means they start in the ducts or lobes of the breast and spread into surrounding breast tissue.

>   Symptoms and risk factors

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or thickening in the breast. Although most breast lumps are not cancerous, it is important to get a doctor to check as soon as you notice anything unusual.

We still don’t know exactly what causes breast cancer. But you may be at higher risk of developing it if you are over the age of 50, have had breast cancer – or certain breast conditions – before, or have dense breast tissue.

>   Diagnosis

One of our specialist doctors or nurses will examine not only your breasts, but also the lymph nodes in your armpits and neck. These small glands can potentially contain cancer cells and help them spread outside the breast.

After your examination, you may need further tests. These could include: a low-dose x-ray of the breast, called a mammogram; an ultrasound examination of your breast tissue and armpits; and a biopsy that checks for cancer cells in any lump or abnormal tissue.

>    Treatment

If a biopsy shows there are breast cancer cells, we may carry out further scans and blood tests to determine the size of the cancer and how it may be affecting your general health.

Depending on the results, we will perform either a lumpectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the cancer and surrounding tissue from the breast, or a mastectomy that removes the whole breast. We will usually also remove some of all lymph nodes in your armpit.

After surgery, it is likely we will offer you treatments like radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy to help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.