Only about 1 in every 100 women who have breast screening will be diagnosed with breast cancer. If your tests show that you have cancer, you will be referred to a breast surgeon. You may be feeling shocked, frightened or anxious about what is going to happen next. All these feelings are natural. You will be able to talk to a breast care nurse who can help to support you and your family.
Our section on the emotional effects of cancer discusses the feelings that you may have. It gives advice on how to deal with your emotions and has details of sources of support.
The surgeon or cancer specialist doctor or nurse will discuss possible treatments with you. It’s important to consider the benefits, risks and disadvantages of each carefully before deciding which treatment is best for you.
For women who attend breast screening the cancer is likely to be found early, when there is more chance of being cured.
Invasive breast cancer
Treatment for invasive breast cancer usually involves surgery to remove part or all of the breast:
- a wide local excision - removing the abnormal area and an area (margin) of normal looking tissue surrounding it which is followed by radiotherapy. This is sometimes called breast conserving treatment. More than two-thirds of the cancers found during screening can be treated in this way.
- a mastectomy – removing the whole breast. Breast reconstruction (making a new breast shape) can be done at the same time or later. Some women may need radiotherapy after a mastectomy.
You may also need other treatments such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or a targeted therapy drug called trastuzumab.
Our section on breast cancer has more information about its treatment and coping with cancer.
Treatment almost always cures DCIS. The surgeon removes all the DCIS with a wide local excision. Some women are given radiotherapy to the breast after wide local excision. The surgeon only usually advises removing the whole breast (mastectomy) if the DCIS is large or affects more than one area of the breast.
If DCIS is left untreated it may over time spread into (invade) the breast tissue surrounding the milk ducts to become an invasive breast cancer. Some areas of DCIS will never develop into invasive breast cancer even if no treatment is given. But breast specialists advise treating DCIS because it’s not currently possible to tell which DCIS will develop into invasive cancer.
Our section on DCIS has more information.