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Breast cancer: 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.

Being diagnosed early provides the best hope of treatment so Australian women and men can live longer, healthier lives.

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.

Risk & Prevention

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.


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.

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.

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 ...

Personalised treatment

Breast cancer is a disease of the genes. Through the sequencing of the human genome, we now have a much greater understanding of breast cancer at the genetic level. This has led to the discovery that breast cancer is, in fact, not one disease but man ...

Quality of life

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

Facts and stats about breast cancer in Australia

  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia.
  • 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 65,000 people living with breast cancer in Australia today.
  • In 2017, 17,586 women (an average of 48 women every day) are projected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia, although mortality is predicted to continuously decline.
  • Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer have a 90% chance of surviving five years after diagnosis.
  • 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.
  • Breast cancer spreading to other organs (metastasis) is the main cause of death from breast cancer. The survival rate of women that have metastatic breast cancer at first diagnosis is alarmingly low, with only one in four (a quarter) of women still alive 5 years after diagnosis.
  • 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.