What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a term used to describe
a growth of abnormal cells inside the breast.
Cancer arises when your DNA (which
controls what happens in the cell) changes, making the cell start
growing and dividing out of control.
These abnormal cells cluster together and cause a growth, or
cancer a ‘tumour’. The changes that cause normal breast tissue to
turn cancerous arise at random and can occur over a long time.
Most, but not all, breast cancers tend to arise in women over
If the abnormal cells first started growing in the breast, it is
called a primary breast tumour. If the abnormal breast cells break
off and travel via the lymphatic or blood circulation, they may
start to grow in other areas of the body. This growth is called a
secondary tumour or metastasis.
Breast cancer can be invasive. This type of cancer has the
ability to spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. The
other common type is an in situ cancer which is also known as a non
invasive breast cancer (this is sometimes referred to in the media
as ‘early’ or ‘pre-cancerous changes’). In other words, although
the cells have undergone cancerous changes, they will not spread.
Untreated an in situ cancer can develop into an invasive breast
cancer so surgery to remove it is necessary.
Berkshire Cancer Centre
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
Tel: 0118 322 7888