Types of Breast Cancer


Written by : Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD

There are different types of breast cancer. The two most common types of breast cancer - Ductal breast cancer and Lobular breast cancer - are named according to the part of the breast in which they originate. Breast Cancers may also be characterized according to whether they are Localised ('in situ') or Invasive.

Ductal Breast Cancer: About 80-90% of all breast cancers are ductal in origin. The ducts in the breasts carry milk from the lobules or glands of the breast to the nipples. There are two types of Ductal Cancers:

  • Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS): Ductal carcinoma in Situ is that type of cancer which starts in the cells of the ducts of the breasts and remains contained within the ducts. The cancer cells do not invade other tissues of the breasts or distal organs and can usually be easily removed by surgery. Prognosis is good. Read more here...

  • Invasive Ductal Cancer(IDC): Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer, and makes up about 80% of all breast cancers. It is a type of cancer in which the cancer cells have broken through the wall of the milk ducts and spread to other areas of the breasts. From there, the cell can then spread to the lymph nodes or to distant organs like the bones, ovaries or liver. Read more here...

Lobular Breast Cancer: Lobular breast cancer is a type of cancer which originates in the lobules or milk-producing glands of the breasts. Each breast has twenty lobules (Read about the Anatomy of the breast here). There are two types of Lobular Breast Cancer:

  • Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS): This type of breast cancer remains within the lobule in which it starts and does not invade the surrounding lobules or breast tissue. It is usually considered a pre-cancerous condition and not cancer itself. Read more here...

  • Invasive Lobular Cancer (ILC): About 10% of all invasive breast cancers are invasive lobular carcinomas. Lobular breast cancer is called invasive when the cancer breaks through the lobule and spreads into the surrounding lobules and ducts of the breast tissue. Read more here...

Uncommon Breast Cancers: About 1% of all breast cancers are made up of two relatively uncommon breast cancers:

  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Inflammatory breast cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer. It starts out in the breast ducts and then quickly invades the surrounding tissue. It does not form a lump but the breast can become enlarged and tender with engorged veins, similar to an infection or inflammation of the breast. Read more here...

  • Paget's Disease of the Nipple: Paget's disease is a cancer of the skin cells of the nipples and/or the areola. It may be due to spread from an underlying invasive breast cancer or may be a spontaneous change of the skin cells. Read more here...

Rare Breast Cancers:

  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma: Named for their microscopic appearance, these cancer cells resemble glandular and cystic cells. Usually not aggressive, this type of breast cancer has a good chance of recovery after treatment.

  • Mixed tumors: Tumors that are composed of different types of cancer cells, such as invasive ductal and lobular, are referred to as mixed tumors.

  • Mucinous (colloid) carcinoma: Quite rare, this type of breast cancer produces mucous but has a good prognosis after treatment.

  • Sarcomas of the breast: Sarcomas are cancers that form in connective tissue. Most breast cancers are carcinomas, which form in epithelial tissue.

  • Angiosarcoma: This rare type of breast cancer starts in cells that line the blood vessels within the breast or underarm area. It can occur due to radiation treatments and is apt to grow and spread quickly.

  • Phyllodes tumor (cystosarcoma phyllodes): Named for its leaf-shaped growth pattern, these tumors are often harmless. If they are cancerous, surgery is required, but a Phyllodes tumor will not benefit from chemo or radiation treatments.

Male Breast Cancer: LIke female breast cancer, male breast cancers have similar symptoms, similar diagnostic procedures and similar treatment.

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