Breast Cancer

Cancer is a disease that begins in cells that group together to form tissues or organs in our bodies. Inside each cell are genes that order the cells to grow, work, reproduce and die.

Sometimes a cell's instructions get mixed up and they behave abnormally. Groups of these abnormal cells can circulate in the blood or immune system or form lumps and tumours within organs.

Some tumours are benign, meaning they stay in one place in the body and are not usually life-threatening, depending on the location. Malignant tumour cells can invade the tissues around them and spread to other parts of the body.

Breast cancer starts in the breast tissue, which extends up to the collarbone and from the armpit to the breastbone. Breasts are glands that make milk. Lobules make the milk and the milk ducts drain the milk through the nipple. The cells that form the lobules and ducts can grow out of control and become cancerous.

Non-invasive cancers stay within the milk ducts or milk lobules, while invasive cancers can spread. The most common form of breast cancer is invasive ductal carcinoma, which begins in the milk duct but grows into the surrounding normal tissue inside the breast.

Detecting breast cancer isn't easy, but there are signs that should prompt an exam by a doctor. Warning signs of cancer include:

  • Breast lump
  • Changes in a breast's shape or size
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Redness (usually without pain)
  • A nipple that turns inward, or crusting or scaling on the nipple.

For more information:

Breast cancer facts

Breast cancer in men

LGBTQIA and cancer

Resources and support

Hereditary breast cancer

Back to home page for the Breast Health Centre

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