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Malignant Breast Disease

The term "breast cancer" refers to a malignant tumour that has developed from cells in the breast.

Breast cancer starts in the ducts or lobules of the breast. Cancer cells develop when the cells lining the ducts or lobules grow out of control. Some breast cancers are found when they are still confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast. This is called pre-invasive breast cancer. The most common types are ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS).

Majority of breast cancers are found when they are invasive. This means the cancer has spread outside the ducts or lobules of the breast into surrounding tissue.

There are several types of invasive breast cancer.

  • Early breast cancer: contained in the breast and may or may not spread to one or more lymph nodes in the armpit.
  • Locally advanced breast cancer: may have spread to places near the breast, such as the chest (including the skin, muscles or bones of the chest), but the cancer isn't found in other areas of the body. 

  • Secondary or Metastatic breast cancer: the cancer cells spread from the breast to other areas of the body, such as the bones, liver or the lungs.


Self or clinical breast examination or a screening mammogram or breast ultrasound can detect changes in the breast. Signs to look for include:

  • a lump, lumpiness or thickening

  • change in the shape or size of the breast - this might be either an increase or decrease in size 

  • swelling or discomfort in the armpit
  • changes to the nipple - such as a crusting, change in shape, a sore or an ulcer, redness or a nipple that is inverted (turns in) when it used to stick out, 
changes to the skin of the breast (such as dimpling of the skin), unusual redness or other colour changes 

  • unusual discharge from the nipple without squeezing 

  • persistent, unusual pain - if this is not related to your normal monthly cycle, remains after a period and occurs in one breast only.

These changes don't necessarily mean you have breast cancer. However, if you have any of these symptoms you should have them checked by your doctor without delay.

Men's symptoms are similar to women's.

For more information on breast cancer please click on the following links: