Breast Cancer Types From Common to Rare

Each is treated differently

Breast cancer rendering Images

When we hear the words breast cancer, most of us tend to think that there is only one type of breast cancer, which isn’t the case. There are several types of breast cancer, and they differ from each other.

Based on the type of breast cancer identified in the pathology report, following surgery, the medical team can then plan the most effective treatment for that specific type of breast cancer.

Types of Breast Cancer

Ductal In-Situ (DCIS) is a type of breast cancer that forms in the duct, but has not broken out of the duct and spread into breast tissue. DCIS is considered to be the earliest form of a breast cancer, and very treatable. However, left untreated it can spread beyond the duct and invade healthy breast tissue. The In-Situ description refers to the fact that the cancer is in the original place where it formed.

The most common of breast cancer types is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) which accounts for about 80% of all breast cancer diagnoses. In IDC, cancer cells that initially formed in the milk ducts, spread beyond the ducts, invading the breast tissue. IDC has the potential to spread beyond the breast to other parts within the body.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) is the second most common type of breast cancer. It accounts for roughly 10 percent of diagnosed invasive breast cancers. IDC is often hard to see in imaging screenings because it grows with spreading branches.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer is a type of breast cancer lacking the necessary receptors to benefit from often-used treatments that target estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2. Chemotherapy is an effective option.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is a type of breast cancer that often does not produce a lump that can be felt. It generates cancer cells that infiltrate the skin and lymph vessels of the breast, and symptoms appear when the lymph vessels become blocked. When symptoms appear, they run the gamut from itching and a rash or what resembles an insect bite to the breast becoming red, swollen, and warm. Symptoms may include the skin looking pitted similar to an orange peel. Nipple changes, including an inverted nipple, flattening, or dimpling of the nipple may also be some of the symptoms.

IBC is an aggressive breast cancer that requires aggressive treatment, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone treatment and radiation treatment.

Paget’s Disease of the Nipple is a type of breast cancer accounting for less than 3% of all breast cancers. The symptoms of Paget’s Disease, the bleeding, itching, flaking, and nipple discharge, often are incorrectly first diagnosed as eczema or an infection.

Treatment will depend upon the stage of the cancer and encompass one or more of the standard treatments of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.

Metastatic Breast Cancer will have begun in the breast and then spreads to distant parts of the body. Women may have a metastatic disease from when first diagnosed with breast cancer or months or years after being diagnosed and treated for a localized breast cancer.

The most common sites of spread beyond local breast cancer are bone, lungs, liver and brain. Metastatic Breast Cancer is considered a stage 4 breast cancer, treatable but not curable.

In addition to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy, women with metastatic breast cancer may choose to explore the possibility of participating in clinical trials for emerging treatments.

Rare Types of Breast Cancer Include:

  • Medullary Carcinoma, which usually can be seen on a mammogram, can at times feel spongy to the touch, not like a lump. It makes up 3-5% of breast cancers.
  • Tubular Carcinoma has cells that look tubular when seen through a microscope. It also feels like a spongy area of breast tissue. This cancer is most often found in women over 50 years of age.
  • Mucinous Carcinoma accounts for 1-2% of all breast cancers. Cells are poorly defined with mucus production.

Unfortunately, many information sources about breast cancer that can be found on the web do not clarify that breast cancer has many subtypes and that not all subtypes present as a lump. Consequently, some women, using this information to check out symptoms they are having, may delay seeking help because they don’t have a lump or thickening in the breast.

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Article Sources

  1. American Cancer Society. Breast Pathology

  2. American Cancer Society. Understanding Your Pathology Report: Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)

  3. American Cancer Society. Invasive Breast Cancer (IDC/ILC)

  4. American Cancer Society. Inflammatory Breast Cancer

  5. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Rare breast cancer types

  6. Metastatic Breast Cancer

  7. IDC Type: Medullary Carcinoma of the Breast