Breast cancer

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, accounting for 1 in 4 cancer cases. It is the most frequent cancer amongst both sexes and is the leading cause of death from cancer in women. The estimated 2.3 million new cases indicate that one in every 8 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: 
Wednesday 2 March 2022
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