Group of women

Breast cancer

Each year in Ireland, more than 3,400 women and approximately 30 men are diagnosed with breast cancer.  It is more common in women over 50, but it can affect younger women too.

Breast cancer is treated with surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapies, depending on the type.

On this page:

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is when cells in your breast change and grow in an abnormal way. A group of these cancer cells can form a tumour. 

Breast cancer is a common cancer in Ireland. More than 3,400 women and approximately 30 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. 

What are the breasts and what do they do? 

Your breasts are made up of different types of tissue including fat, connective tissue and gland tissue. The gland tissue is divided into milk lobes and milk ducts. During and after pregnancy, milk is made and stored by the lobes and carried to the nipple by the ducts.

Your breasts are rarely the same size as each other. They may feel different at different times of the menstrual cycle, sometimes becoming lumpy just before your period. Under your skin, a ‘tail’ of breast tissue extends into your armpit (axilla).

The armpits also contain a collection of lymph nodes (glands) that make up part of the lymphatic system.


We use the term ‘woman / women’ in our breast cancer information but we understand that not everyone who may need this information identifies as a woman. Although it is rare, men can get breast cancer too.

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, we are here for you. For confidential advice, information and support, contact our Support Line on Freephone 1800 200 700.



More information about breast cancer

Signs and symptoms, types of breast cancer, and how breast cancer is diagnosed.

Prevention and early detection of breast cancer

Information about breast cancer risk factors, how to check your breasts for changes, and screening for breast cancer.

More information about a breast cancer diagnosis

What to expect after a breast cancer diagnosis, including further tests, grading and staging, and how your hormones and cells determine what kind of treatment to expect.

More information about breast cancer treatment

Treatment for breast cancer depends on the type. Usually the main treatments are surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapies.

Coping with breast cancer treatment and side-effects

Tips and advice for when treatment is finished, including coping with emotions and physical changes.

Looking for support?

Our cancer support section contains information and advice on coping with cancer for diagnosed patients and their loved ones.

Publications about breast cancer
Downloadable booklets and factsheets
Breast cancer leaflet
Breast Cancer - What You Should Know leaflet
This leaflet has facts about breast cancer, ways to reduce your risk, how to check your breasts, and signs and symptoms to look out for.
breast self exam illustrations
Breast cancer: know what to look for
Know the symptoms of breast cancer, because spotting cancer early is important. An A4 poster to download, share, or print.
Breast cancer booklet
Cancer of the breast booklet
Information for breast cancer patients, including tests, staging, treatment and side-effects, and how to cope.
Ductal carcinoma in situ factsheet
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) factsheet
This factsheet gives information on an early form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
It explains more about the breast, what DCIS is, and how it is treated.
Understanding Breast Reconstruction booklet
Breast reconstruction booklet
This booklet has been written to help you learn more about breast reconstruction. It is aimed at people who have breast cancer and are considering breast reconstruction surgery.
Healthy living woman's guide booklet
Healthy living and cancer - A woman's guide booklet
This booklet looks at cancer in general but also cancers specific to women.

For more information

Icon: Phone


1800 200 700

Icon: Email