About breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in New Zealand. It affects more Māori women than other women.
More than 3,000 women in NZ are diagnosed with breast cancer every year
Breast cancer grows over a number of years after starting as a single cell. There are a number of types of breast cancer, and why they develop is not completely understood. Some breast cancers have a better chance of being cured than others.
When breast cancer spreads into the surrounding breast tissue, it is called invasive breast cancer. Invasive breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body through lymph nodes and blood vessels.
Checking for breast cancer symptoms
Watch out for any changes in your breasts even if you are having regular mammograms. Get to know what your breasts look and feel like normally, so you can see or feel any changes that are unusual for you – for example:
- a new lump or thickening
- puckering or dimpling
- an inverted nipple
- changes in shape or size
- a rash on the nipple or reddened skin on your breast
- discharge from your nipple.
If you notice any of these changes, see your doctor as soon as you can. Don’t wait for your next mammogram.
These symptoms may not be cancer but you need to have them checked. It could save your life.
Risk factors for breast cancer
The risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age. Breast cancer is more common in women over 50. About 70% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and about 80% of women who die from it are 50 years or older.
You can find out more at Can breast cancer be prevented?