Wendy Richard bravely fought breast cancer twice before learning it had returned in an aggressive form and was terminal.

The actress, who was 65 when she died, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1990s but managed to overcome it.

The cancer returned but Richard again managed to battle against the disease in 2002.

She went into remission but, sadly, she was told in January 2008 that the disease had returned and was in the lymph nodes of her left armpit.

It spread to her kidneys and bones and, in October, Richard revealed that the cancer was terminal.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with 125 women every day newly-diagnosed with it.

That adds up to more than 45,000 women every year and around 300 men each year also get the disease.

The main treatments for breast cancer are surgery in the form of a lumpectomy (surgery to remove the lump and some of the surrounding tissue) or a mastectomy (removal of the whole breast).

During most breast cancer operations, lymph nodes are removed from the armpit to look for cancer cells that may have spread.

Women are also likely to undergo radiotherapy within two to four weeks of having a lumpectomy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

Chemotherapy may also be given before or after breast surgery and this can be used if cancer returns.

Oestrogen, which is a female hormone, is a major factor for the growth of many breast cancers. Some drugs help reduce levels of the hormone in the blood to try and decrease the speed of growth of tumours.

Some breast cancers are hereditary but others are unexplained.

It is known that following a healthy diet and exercising can help reduce the risk of developing the disease.

A report out today from the World Cancer Research Fund says that 42% of breast cancer cases (around 19,100 cases a year) could be prevented by cutting down on alcohol, increasing exercise and keeping weight in check.

The five-year survival rate for women diagnosed in England and Wales in 2001-2003 was 80%.

This compares with just 52% for women diagnosed in 1971 to 1975.

However, when Richard discovered that her cancer had spread, the chances she would survive the disease would have been very low.

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