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What you need to know


From the basic biology of the breast to knowing your risk, and checking for symptoms, it’s important to be informed about breast cancer.

Women and men who check for changes in their breasts are able to be diagnosed early, which provide the best hope of treatment getting rid of all the cancer from the breast so they live longer.

A diagnosis of breast cancer is an understandably stressful and emotional time for everyone involved, and there is a lot of new information to absorb. This section provides useful information on symptoms, detection  and risk factors as an easy reference point for anyone thinking about breast cancer.

Breast anatomy and how cancer starts

Understanding the anatomy of the breast is helpful for understanding why cancer starts here.

Your risk of developing breast cancer

Find out about your risk of developing breast cancer, what you can do to lower your risk, and how research may help overcome risk factors in future.

Screening and detection

Early detection saves lives. Read here to find out how breast cancer is detected and how research is helping to enhance screening tools.

Men and breast cancer

Men also have breast tissue and do get breast cancer. Find out more about the treatment and support for men with breast cancer.

How to check for breast cancer symptoms

It’s important to be breast aware, know the symptoms and be able to check for them. We also debunk some of the myths about what causes breast cancer.

Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer

Secondary (metastatic) breast cancer has very different symptoms depending on where the cancer has spread to. We go through what women might experience.

Breast density

Almost eight per cent of women have extremely high breast density which increases their cancer risk and can make it harder for health professionals to detect breast cancer on a screening mammogram. Dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more non-f ...

Young women

Nearly 800 young women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Australia – that is more than two women under 40 years old each day. Because it’s relatively uncommon, symptoms of breast cancer in young women – such as a lump or breast ...

What is metastatic breast cancer?

Metastatic breast cancer, also known as secondary breast cancer, advanced breast cancer or stage 4 breast cancer, occurs when the tumour spreads beyond the primary site of the breast. Breast cancer originates in the breast, and can be treated with su ...

Facts and stats about breast cancer in Australia

  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
  • One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • On average, eight women die from breast cancer every day in Australia.
  • There are more than 60,000 people living with breast cancer in Australia today.
  • In 2020, 17,210 women (an average of 47 women every day) are projected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia, although mortality is predicted to continuously decline.
  • Increasing age is one of the strongest risk factors for developing breast cancer.
  • More than two in three cases of breast cancer occur in women aged between 40 and 69 years.
  • Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer have an 89.6% chance of surviving five years after diagnosis.
  • Breast cancer spreading to other organs (metastasis) is the main cause of death from breast cancer. Once breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is thought that the number of women surviving five years is only around one-in-five.
  • More women are surviving breast cancer. In 1994 when NBCF was established, around 76 of every 100 women diagnosed with breast cancer were still alive five years after diagnosis. Today, 90 out of every hundred are still living.
  • Improvements in survival are attributed to earlier detection of breast cancer through regular mammograms and improved treatment outcomes for breast cancer.
  • Although rare, breast cancer can also affect men, accounting for about 1% of cases. Around 140 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year.