What is breast cancer?

Breast awareness

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal breast cells. Breast cancer is not caused by a bacteria or a virus and is not contagious.

Normally cells are created, grow and die in a controlled way. However, when abnormal changes occur in the genes which usually regulate this orderly process, normal gene function can be turned on or off. Damaged cells are then able to keep growing and dividing and a tumour is formed.

These abnormal gene changes, or mutations, are usually acquired over time as we age. 85 – 90% of breast cancers are caused by this process and only 5 – 10% are due to an inherited gene mutation.

A tumour in the breast can be benign (usually not life-threatening) or malignant (cancerous). Although a benign tumour may cause problems as it grows, it does not spread to other parts of the body. On the other hand, a malignant tumour does have the potential to grow and spread to form secondary tumours. When this happens, it's called advanced, metastatic or secondary breast cancer.

Types of breast cancer

Everyone’s breast cancer is different. To find out more about the different types of breast cancer, click on the link below.

Tests and Diagnosis

If you've been recalled after a mammogram, you'll need to go through a few more tests. This may mean extra mammogram views and/or a biopsy to establish a diagnosis.

Treatment Options

After you've been diagnosed, your specialist team will meet to review your test results and plan a course of treatment.