Breast cancer is the commonest cancer in women in the UK. There are over 40,000 new cases every year. It is important to realize that half of all new cases are middle aged or older, ie over 65 years of age at diagnosis. Standard treatment is usually surgery supported by drug therapy and/or radiotherapy.
New drug treatments have been developed and there is a lot of new information on the different types of breast cancer, based mainly on study of the so-called molecular profiles of the cancer cells from patients genes (DNA, RNA) and cell proteins. This is giving new insights into assessing risk, prognosis and choosing best treatment.
Breast cancer screening
An important part of breast cancer care is the early diagnosis of small tumours by screening. This should lead to more easily cured cancer.
The National Health Service has run a screening programme since 1988. All women aged 50–70 years are invited for mammographic screening once every three years and diagnoses about 10 000 breast cancers annually.
A recent review of the scientific evidence has demonstrated that regular mammographic screening between the ages of 50 and 70 years does reduce mortality from breast cancer. The cancers in screened women are smaller and are less likely to be treated with mastectomy than they would have been if diagnosed without screening.
Specific UK charities involved in the care and research into breast cancer are: