It can be very difficult to take everything in when you first hear you have cancer. We understand the shock a diagnosis of breast cancer can bring. 
You may need help to get the facts straight and to ask the questions that are important to you.
Understanding the type of breast cancer you have is important. It influences the treatment you will be offered.

What is breast cancer?
 
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. Around 50,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, around 300 of them men.
 
Approximately 81% of breast cancers occur in women who are over the age of 50. Nearly half of all cases are diagnosed in people in the 50-69 age group.
 
Breast cancer is not one single disease. There are several types of breast cancer. It can be diagnosed at different stages of development and can grow at different rates. This means that people can be given different treatments, depending on what will work best for them.
 
Having breast cancer doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is going to die. Better treatments mean that more and more people are now living long and full lives after breast cancer. It’s thought that around 550,000 people are alive in the UK who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer.
 
Facts about breast cancer
 
The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 8 
This means that 1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their life – but of course it also means that 7 out of 8 women won’t develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
 
Estimated risk of developing breast cancer according to age
 
Risk up to age 29, 1 in 2,000.
Risk up to age 39, 1 in 215.
Risk up to age 49, 1 in 50.
Risk up to age 59, 1 in 22.
Risk up to age 69, 1 in 13.
Lifetime risk, 1 in 8.
Both women and men get breast cancer 
Just over 49,000 women and 300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK.
 
Older people are more likely to get breast cancer than younger people
Age is the strongest risk factor for developing breast cancer – the older the person, the higher the risk. Around 81 per cent of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50.
 
Most cases of breast cancer don’t run in the family 
Most cases of breast cancer happen by chance. Less than 10% of breast cancers run in families. Because breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with around 50,000 people diagnosed each year, having someone in your family doesn’t necessarily mean your own risk is increased. For most people, having a relative with breast cancer does not increase their risk of developing the disease.
 
A mammogram helps detect breast cancer 
A mammogram – a breast x-ray – is used to screen for and detect cancer and other breast conditions early so they can be treated as soon as possible. Because breast cancer is more common in women who are over the age of 50, women aged 50 to 70 are invited for routine breast screening every three years.
 
Breast cancer can affect women, regardless of the size of their breasts
Breast cancer can affect women with small breasts, medium breasts, large breasts – any size breasts. Breast size is irrelevant.
 
Finding a lump in your breast doesn’t mean you have breast cancer 
There are several benign (not cancer) conditions that can occur in the breast at any age that may cause a lump, but any new lump should always be assessed by a doctor. Also many women will experience lumpy breasts just before their period. This is a normal response to changing hormones and often the lump or lumpiness disappears after the period. However if this doesn’t go away, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor. Don’t be afraid that you’re wasting her/his time.
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