Breast cancer arises from a malignant tumour. It occurs when breast cells become abnormal and divide without control or order. Normal cells divide and produce in an orderly manner. Sometimes this orderly process is disrupted and cells grow and divide out of control, producing extra tissue to form a mass or lump called a tumour. A tumour can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The breasts are made up mainly of fat cells and gland cells. Milk-producing glands in the breast are made up of individual cells which normally reproduce under the control of hormones. Sometimes this process of reproduction goes out of control and an abnormal glandular structure develops. This is the beginning of cancer. The majority of breast cancers starts in the milk ducts. A small number start in the milk sacs or lobules.
More than 25% of all cancers diagnosed in women are breast cancers. Between 2011 and 2015, about 1,927 women were diagnosed to have breast cancer in Singapore each year.
Nine out of 10 women who go to their doctors with breast lumps have a benign disorder, not cancer. Normal changes associated with the menstrual cycle can make breasts feel lumpy.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Most women who are diagnosed to have breast cancer are older than 40 years old, but younger women may also be affected.
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