Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among New Zealand women and the third most common cancer in New Zealand. It causes 600 deaths every year1.

What is it and how is it caused?

Cancer occurs when some of the cells in the body start to grow out of control. These cells form a lump called a tumour2. Some breast cancers grow slowly and some grow much faster.

Some women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer because they have family members who have had it. However, most women who develop breast cancer have not had any relatives with the disease.

Risk factors2

  • Being female
  • Getting older (females)
  • Previous history of breast cancer
  • Increased number of abnormal cells in the breast ducts
  • Family history of breast cancer

Symptoms of breast cancer2

  • Lump or lumpiness
  • Thickening of the tissue
  • Nipple changes, such as skin dimpling
  • Blood-stained discharge from the nipple
  • Rash on nipple, or rash and/or redness on breast
  • Painful area


  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone treatment

The treatments used depend on the type and size of breast cancer, whether or not it has spread and certain patient factors which you can discuss with your doctor.



  1. Ministry of Health. Accessed 14/09/17 from:
  2. Health Navigator. Accessed 14/09/17 from: