Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in
Australian women. 1 in 14 women will be diagnosed with
breast cancer by age 75
Most lumps and breast changes are not breast cancer.
90% of breast lumps are harmless e.g. cysts
Breast cancer has a very high survival rate (more
than 75% of women in Australia diagnosed with breast cancer
survive for more than 5 years)
Early detection significantly improves your chances
of survival. If breast cancer is detected early, while
still localised in the breast, chances of five-year survival
are around 90%; if it has spread to distant parts of the
body, the survival rate drops to 18%
The major risk factor is age. The average age at which
breast cancer is diagnosed is 64 years
There is no known single cause.
The risk of breast cancer is higher in some women
because of genetic influences. If you have one or more
close relatives who have had breast cancer, you may have
a higher risk
Over 5% of breast cancer diagnosed is in young women
You may reduce your risk of breast cancer by changing
Regular mammograms after age 50 could increase your
chances of survival- BreastScreen Australia has set
a goal of achieving a 30% reduction in breast cancer deaths
based on a participation rate of 70% in mammographic screening
for women aged 50-69.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is
the clearing house for all cancer statistics in Australia.
The collection of data is drawn from the state cancer registries
and analysis of the data cannot be undertaken until all states
have submitted material. The AIHW has also published survival
data for the period 1982-1994 drawing on information from
state cancer registries.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a group of conditions. There is more than
one type of breast cancer. Some breast cancers are genetic
- that is they run in families. For others there is no known
cause. We do not know what causes breast cancer. The two key
risk factors are being a woman and getting older. Researchers
are continuing to investigate the causes of breast cancer
and other factors that may increase a person's risk.
The common feature of every type is that cells in the breast
start to grow out of control. Normally cell growth is restricted
to repairing normal cells. Chemicals ensure that growth stays
orderly and doesn't get out of hand.
Cancer starts when these chemical "brakes" on growth
are taken off or don't work or cells become insensitive to
them. Cell growth becomes uncontrolled. The cells may start
to look abnormal. Fast growing cancer cells in the breast
produce a swelling or tumour. Most tumours are benign. That
is the growth is contained to where it started.
Cancer cells are invasive. They spread beyond where they
started, initially into adjacent tissues, then to other distant
parts of the body via the blood and the lymphatic system.
As they invade normal tissue, they destroy it. The spread
of cancer cells to the surrounding fat, downward to the muscles
or upwards to the skin, is described as local spread. Spread
via the blood or lymphatic system, where the cells create
new tumours in other parts of the body is known as metastasis.
Most breast cancer is caught before this stage.