Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

In the UK, breast cancer is currently the most common cancer; over 49,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year, with most 8 out of 10 of the women being over the age of 50. In rare cases, men can also get breast cancer with around 400 men being diagnosed each year. Younger women can also develop it.

These are the different types of breast cancer that can develop:

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)

Also known as infiltrating lobular carcinoma, it’s the second most common type of cancer in the breast. The Invasive means it has spread to surrounding tissue and possibly to the lymph nodes.

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Invasive ductal breast cancer/ Invasive breast cancer

This is the most common type of cancer which affects around 75% of women and men in the UK each year. This type of cancer usually starts in the ducts but when it becomes invasive ductal breast cancer, it means it has spread to surrounding tissues and potentially to other parts of the body.

Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

This cancer is more commonly diagnosed before menopause. It’s not a cancer itself but shows abnormal cells that put a woman at high risk of developing invasive breast cancer later in life. Carcinoma means a cancer in the skin or tissues and situ means, in its original place, therefore this cancer doesn’t often spread to surrounding tissues.

Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

This type of cancer is abnormal cells in the ducts that have begun turning into cancer cells. If you are diagnosed with this, the ‘situ’ means in the original place, therefore it wouldn’t have spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes. This is a very early form of breast cancer and can be treated easily if caught early.

Inflammatory breast cancer

This type of breast cancer is rare but very aggressive. The cancer cells in the breast block lymph channels in the breast, this causes the breast to become swollen, red, and hot to touch and firm. It affects 1 in 4 out of every breast cancer diagnoses.

Paget disease

Paget disease is also known as Paget disease of the nipple and mammary Paget disease. This is a rare type of breast cancer which affects the nipple and the areola. People with Paget disease usually have one or more tumours in the breast affected and will have another type of cancer such as ductal carcinoma in situ or invasive breast cancer.

Angiosarcoma of the breast

This is rare breast cancers that are soft tissue sarcoma. Sarcoma affects soft tissues such as blood vessels, muscle, fat etc. This type of breast cancer commonly affects women between the ages of 20-40 years.

Breast Cancer Causes


Like many cancer, the older you get, the more at risk you are of developing cancer. With breast cancer, it affects people more over the age of 50.

Family history

Having a close family member like a mother or a sister who’ve had breast cancer, could put you at higher risk.

Previous cancer

Previous breast cancer and other cancers can increase your chances of developing breast cancer or having reoccurring breast cancer. Exposure to radiations from other cancers can also result in an increased risk of breast cancer.

Breast density

If you have dense breasts, it can make diagnosing breast cancer difficult. This is because mammograms may not be able to detect the cancer properly. The increased risk with dense breasts is due to the fact that they have less fat and more breast cells and connective tissues, having a greater proportion of breast cells will increase the risk.

Exposure to oestrogen

This is a female hormone that can stimulate breast cancer cells and cause them to grow. The ovaries produce oestrogen when you start puberty; therefore if you started puberty at a young age and had a late menopause, you’re at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women who haven’t had children or had them later in life can increase your risk. Pregnancy temporarily disrupts oestrogen exposure.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

HRT is used to relieve the symptoms of menopause. But it’s proven to increase the risk of developing cancer due to the exposure to oestrogen. The longer you take HRT will increase your risk further.


Particular genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Another gene that contributes to a higher risk is TP53. If you’ve had a close family member diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, it may be worth getting tested for this gene.

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Breast Cancer Signs and symptoms

The most common sign of cancer is a lump in the breast; some lumps are not cancerous so try not to panic until you’ve been tested. Some lumps could be cysts or a fibroadenoma.

Other common signs and symptoms are:

  • – Swelling or a lump in the armpit
  • – Swelling or a lump in the breast
  • – Swelling or lump on the nipple
  • – Change in shape or size of the breast
  • – Dimpling or thickening of the skin on the breast
  • – Nipple that inverts
  • – Eczema like rash on the nipple
  • – Discharge from the nipples (it may be streaked with blood)
  • – Breast pain (not usually a common symptom but if it persists, see your doctor)
  • – Puckering of the skin on the breast
  • – Skin of the breast looking like an orange peel


All women over the age of 50 to 70 years old in the UK will be invited for breast cancer screening, every 3 years. Women over 70 are entitled to screening but will have to arrange this with their doctor.


Around one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. If your doctor thinks you may have cancer, you’ll be referred for tests, these tests are:

Mammographic screening:

This is where x-ray images are taken of the breast to highlight any tumours within the breast; it’s currently the best method available for detecting breast lesions.

Ultrasound scans

If you have a lump but it doesn’t show on the mammogram, you will be referred for an ultrasound.


This procedure takes a sample of tissue from your breast. The tissue is then sent to a lab where it can be inspected under a microscope.

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