Home > Diseases we research > Breast cancer


Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast tissue multiply and form a tumour. In the majority of invasive breast cancers, the tumour begins in the lining of the milk ducts. If undetected, these cancer cells may also spread to other parts of the breast, the surrounding lymph nodes, and to other parts of the body.
About breast cancer

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is not a single disease. Researchers now think there may be up to 10 subtypes, with differences in how aggressive the cancer is, and how it responds to treatment. As more than 75% of all breast cancers occur in women aged 50 and over, due to Australia’s ageing population, the incidence of breast cancer is rising. However, significant advances in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer mean more patients are surviving breast cancer than ever before.

Key statistics

  • 1 in 8
    One in eight Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 85
  • No. 2
    Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in women, after lung cancer
  • 16,000
    Over 16,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year
  • 5%
    5% of all breast cancers diagnosed in Australia are for women
    between the ages of 20 and 39
  • Male incidence
    Fewer than 1% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in males

Breast cancer research at Garvan

Garvan is home to one of the largest breast cancer research groups in Australia conducting leading-edge research on the progression of breast cancer and the development of new treatments. Research includes defining the genetic characteristics of breast cancer; developing biomarkers of prognosis and responsiveness to treatment; and understanding how cancers become resistant to treatment and identifying ways to overcome this. The Kinghorn Cancer Centre brings together clinicians and researchers from St Vincent’s Hospital and Garvan to provide state-of-the-art breast cancer services and to give patients access to a suite of clinical trials.

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