Learning about breast cancer starts with the basics. Let’s look at what it means to have a breast cancer diagnosis and explore the different grades, stages and types of breast cancer. You’ll also find information about tests and the treatment options currently available.

Throughout your experience, the information on this website will encourage you to ask questions about your diagnosis and the medical treatment you’ll be receiving, and the best way to start is by knowing what’s out there. Your health care team is here to help you – so don’t be afraid to tell them how you’re feeling.

Your breasts

When doctors and nurses refer to the female breast, they may be describing a region that goes beyond the breast itself. Breast tissue covers a great deal of your upper body: from your collarbone over to your breastbone (sternum) and across to the armpit (axilla). 

What is the breast made up of?

The breast is made up of fat, milk glands, and tubes (called ducts) that carry the milk to the nipple. Each breast has sections called lobes. The ducts are thin tubes that unite the lobes, lobules, and bulbs. Within each lobe, there are several lobules that end in bulbs which produce milk. All these structures are cushioned by fat. There are no muscles in the breast, but muscles do lie under each breast and cover the ribs. 

Your breast also contains blood vessels and lymph vessels. Lymph vessels carry a colourless fluid called lymph, and lead to small bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes. Clusters of lymph nodes are found near the breast under the arm (known as the axilla). Lymph nodes are also found above the collarbone and in the chest, as well as other parts of the body. Lymph nodes help the body defend itself against sickness and infection.