Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, experienced by around one in eight women.

Reviewed by Mr Giles Davies, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon

At a glance

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, experienced by around one in eight women. When detected in its early stages, breast cancer is highly treatable with good survival rates. Men can also develop breast cancer, although this is very rare. 

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast mutate and grow out of control. This can happen in either one or both breasts. If left untreated, these cells can spread to other parts of the body. 

For many people, the first sign of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. Most breast lumps are benign, but you should still make an appointment with your GP if you notice one. Screening with a mammogram can also detect breast cancer before a lump appears. 

Other symptoms include: 

  • A lump or thickening in your breast. This will feel different from the rest of your breast tissue. 
  • Discharge or bleeding from your nipple. The discharge is new and isn’t milky. 
  • A change in the look or texture of your skin. Your skin might be red, puckered or look dimpled like the skin of an orange. 
  • Inflammation or a rash on or around your nipple. There may be redness, a rash or crusting on your nipple or around it. 
  • A change to your nipple. This might be a change to its shape, or if it becomes sunken or inverted. 
  • A lump or pain in your armpit. You might notice a lump in your armpit or feel pain there. 
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast. You may notice this more so when you move your arms. 

The causes of breast cancer aren’t fully understood, but there are several risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing it. These include: 

  • Being over 50 years old 
  • Having close relatives with breast cancer or ovarian cancer 
  • Previous breast cancers or lumps 
  • Exposure to estrogen 
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or the contraceptive pill for long periods of time 
  • Being overweight 
  • Drinking alcohol 
  • Having very dense breasts or a previous biopsy in the past 

Diagnosis of breast cancer

We developed our breast care diagnostic pathway to provide women with rapid access to diagnostic services in suspected cases of breast cancer. Our pathway allows patients to have their consultation and diagnostic tests on the same day, all under one roof. 

We offer a comprehensive range of tests for suspected breast cancer, including: 

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you can undergo all treatment at the Cromwell Hospital Integrated Cancer Campus. We provide some of the latest, most advanced treatments for breast cancer, delivered by an expert team of oncologists, nurse specialists and other supporting healthcare professionals. Our multidisciplinary team ensures that each patient’s case is carefully reviewed, and a bespoke treatment plan is designed. 

Breast cancer treatment

Our Integrated Cancer Campus provides some of UK’s most advanced treatments for breast cancer, including precision biopsy and coil localisation to mark small cancers, all types of breast reconstruction including complex reconstruction using tummy tissue (DIEP flap), the latest cancer drugs, minimally invasive and robotic surgery, ISO 9001 accredited chemotherapy, and advanced radiotherapy in partnership with GenesisCare.

Private breast cancer specialists in London

Paying for your treatment

We welcome both self-paying and insured patients.

Our locations

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Please note - regrettably we are unable to answer specific medical questions or offer medical advice via email or telephone.