In the European Union, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the most common cause of death due to cancer in women, with about 365,000 new cases and 91,000 deaths occurring every year. Breast cancer is not a single disease; there are several different types of breast cancer. About 1 out of 10 women in the European Union will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime – mostly middle-aged and older women, but younger women can also develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is rare in men.

Breast cancer seldom causes symptoms other than a lump or thickening in the breast tissue (although most breast lumps are not cancerous). If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, it can be cured by treatment before it spreads to other parts of the body. Women of any age who notice a lump in their breast should consult their doctor or health-care provider.

The chances of survival after a breast cancer is diagnosed depend very much upon the type of cancer and how far advanced it is when it is found. There is a good chance of successful treatment if the cancer is detected at an early stage. Breast cancer screening can detect cancer at an early stage and so increases the chance of survival. In the European Union, only 1 out of 4 women with breast cancer will die from the disease. Studies show that women with breast cancers that are detected at screening have a lower risk of dying from breast cancer. Regularly participating in screening can prevent about 4 out of 10 breast cancer deaths in screen-detected cases. The chances of survival are improving all the time due to improved knowledge and better treatment.