Diagnosing breast cancer quickly and accurately is vital, as the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chances of survival. 

We’re getting better at earlier diagnosis, but more needs to be done. Find out more about our research to help detect breast cancer earlier and accurately.

The ambition

Our aim is that an increasing amount of people will be diagnosed early and our improved understanding of different breast cancers will better their chances of successful treatment.

By 2025, we believe we will have identified those at increased risk of breast cancer so a further 2,850 women each year will have their disease diagnosed early.

And by knowing which breast cancers require treatment and which don’t, we will eliminate overtreatment, saving more than 4,000 women from unnecessary treatment each year.

Our approach

As a result of our research, we understand more than ever about the earliest stages of breast cancer and how it develops. Through our pioneering health information and campaigns, we’ve worked to turn this knowledge into practical interventions and solutions for women facing the disease. Now, we’re working to ensure every woman receives the right diagnosis at the earliest opportunity.

By understanding the earliest changes in the development of breast cancer, we will make sure women are diagnosed early. Our researchers are investigating the cellular processes that regulate the early development of normal breast tissue. These processes are often defective in cancer, so understanding how they normally work will improve our understanding of the early changes that signal breast cancer, which could lead to new ways to detect the disease.

We must ensure the best methods are implemented to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages. A new imaging technique called Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) acts like a ‘3D mammogram’, providing 3D images of the breast. Our researchers will use cutting-edge computer modelling to develop a technique to spot areas of high breast density. This could eventually be incorporated into routine breast screening, enabling doctors to spot the signs of breast cancer earlier than is currently possible.

We need to ensure that the breast screening programme evolves to incorporate new evidence on the best ways to group people by risk. Currently women over 40 with an increased risk of developing breast cancer due to a family history of the disease can be offered a yearly mammogram but this is not available for women aged 35-39. With our funding, a large scale clinical trial is currently assessing how effective mammography is at detecting breast cancer in these women to see if they could benefit from screening. This pioneering research will provide much-needed evidence to inform international best practice for monitoring these women.

More information

Find out more about the research projects we are funding