Breast cancer

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer globally. It accounts for 1 in 4 cancer cases among women and is the leading cause of death from cancer in women. The estimated 2.2 million new cases indicate that one in every 10 cancers diagnosed in 2020 is breast cancer. In 2020, there were an estimated 684,996 deaths from breast cancer, with a disproportionate number of these deaths occurring in low-resource settings.[1]

Breast cancer cells usually form a tumour that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. If spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels, it becomes advanced breast cancer. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body (such as the liver, lungs, bones or brain), it is said to have metastasised, and is referred to as metastatic breast cancer.

"There is an overwhelming need for evidence-based and resource-stratified guidelines that support the phased implementation of breast cancer early detection and treatment into real-world practice."
– IARC Director Dr Elisabete Weiderpass from IARC Press release

Survival rates for breast cancer are very high when the cancer is detected early and where treatment is available. Unfortunately, 50 to 80% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage[2] in many low- and middle-income countries, when the cancer is more difficult to treat, is more expensive to do so, and is usually incurable.  

To tackle the growing breast cancer burden, it is critical that improvements are made in access to early detection, timely access to treatment and care, palliative and survivorship care, and comprehensive data collection through robust cancer registries.[3]

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Last update: 
Thursday 3 November 2022
More news and blogs on breast cancer
Gautami Tadimalla, Actress and Founder of Life Again Foundation
6 December 2022

Podcast "Let's Talk Cancer" – Gautami Tadimalla: from patient to advocate

What does it mean to experience cancer even after remission? How does this experience translate into advocating for better cancer care ? Gautami Tadimalla, a celebrated Bollywood actress, speaks to Cary Adams in Let's Talk Cancer.

Health care worker at FUCAM in Mexico, with large pink ribbon in the background symbolising Breast Cancer Awareness Month
26 October 2022

Podcast "Let's Talk Cancer" – Closing the care gap in breast cancer survival

On the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Lydia Pace speaks about the global rise in breast cancer cases, the significant disparities in survival rates between income settings, promising innovations and male breast cancer.

Doctor advising a breast cancere patient on medicine.
25 October 2022

Healthy diet and physical activity can lower the risk of death after breast cancer diagnosis

Lower body weight and being physically active could reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer, according to research published today in the International Journal of Cancer, a UICC publication.

Campaign poster for Male Breast Cancer Global Alliance featuring a number of men
10 October 2022


For International Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Cheri Ambrose has been invited to share some facts and figures about breast cancer in men. 

Black woman smiling, with child on her lap. Photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash.
14 June 2022

Expanding care for women’s cancers in low-resource settings

Partnerships and integrated approaches leveraging existing infrastructure can help expand services for women's cancers and improve prevention and care.

Nurse attending to a breast cancer patient at the FUCAM breast centre in Mexico. Photo by Adán Jardón, (c) UICC.
9 March 2022

Seeds of change – making an impact in breast cancer care

Andy Schmeltz of Pfizer honours the more than fifty SPARC awardees around the world who are "sparking" change for all people living with metastatic breast cancer, no matter who they are or where they live.