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

The ambition

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

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. In cancer, these processes are often defective, so understanding how they normally work will improve our understanding of the early changes that signal breast cancer. This 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 years with an increased risk of developing breast cancer because of a family history of the disease can be offered a yearly mammogram. But this is not available for women aged 35-39 considered to have a moderate or high risk of developing breast cancer. We funded a large-scale clinical trial which provided strong evidence that screening these women yearly would benefit them, by picking up tumours earlier. We hope that these results will help to inform future reviews of the services offered to women with a family history of breast cancer. 

More information

Find out more about the research projects we are funding