Home  >  Health Encyclopedia  >  Health Encyclopedia Home

Health Encyclopedia

 

Health Encyclopedia Home



Understanding Your Type of Breast Cancer

Understanding Your Type of Breast Cancer

The ducts and the lobules are the two structures of the breast where cancer is most likely to occur. Your doctor can look under a microscope at the cancer cells that were collected during your biopsy to determine which type of cancer you have. The type of cancer partly determines your choices for treatment. Other rare types of cancers, such as inflammatory breast cancer and Paget’s disease, can begin in the breast as well.

The single most important factor in evaluating any breast cancer is determining whether it is noninvasive (in situ) or invasive (infiltrating). This will help determine your treatment plan and, to some extent, the outcomes you can expect:

  • Noninvasive cancers occur only in the ducts or lobules and do not spread to the surrounding areas. If not treated, they can later develop into a more serious, invasive type of cancer. If you are diagnosed with noninvasive carcinoma, your chances of surviving are very high if you don’t wait to treat it. If you do wait, you run the risk that your cancer will become invasive. Invasive cancer is more difficult to treat.

  • Invasive cancers have started to spread to surrounding areas. This type of breast cancer is much more serious than noninvasive cancer. It often invades nearby lymph nodes first. It can then spread to other parts of your body through your bloodstream and lymphatic system. Treatment for invasive cancer is usually a more difficult, long-term process. But these cancers often can still be cured.

Ductal carcinoma

Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer. It is breast cancer that starts in the lining of the breast ducts. When breast cancer has not spread outside of the ducts, it is called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Sometimes called intraductal carcinoma, it’s the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma is breast cancer that has spread beyond the walls of the breast ducts. It is the most common type of invasive breast cancer.

A diagnosis of DCIS is relatively good news. It means that abnormal cells are found only inside the milk duct of the breast and that these abnormal cells have not spread outside the duct. They also have not spread within the breast, beyond the breast, to the lymph nodes under the arm, or to other parts of the body. DCIS can be in either a small portion or a large portion of a duct system. DCIS has an extremely high cure rate--more than 90 percent. But if it isn’t removed, some types of DCIS may change over time and turn into invasive cancers. You can reduce your risk of getting the more serious, invasive breast cancers by getting the proper treatment for DCIS.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

LCIS is a noncancerous (benign) growth change in some of the cells in the milk glands called lobules. Although its name implies otherwise, it is not considered a true cancer and does not require treatment. But it does mean you may have an increased risk of getting ductal breast cancer or invasive lobular carcinoma in the future, so regular mammograms and breast exams are very important. 

Invasive lobular carcinoma

Fewer people get lobular carcinoma than ductal carcinoma. This cancer starts in the lobules and spreads outside of the lobules. It requires treatment.

Paget disease

Paget disease is a rare cancer that begins in the milk ducts of your nipple. It grows slowly. Therefore, it often doesn’t get diagnosed and treated until it is advanced. Occurring in only one nipple, Paget’s disease causes symptoms that are similar to those you might have for a skin infection. Symptoms may include:

  • Inflammation

  • Redness

  • Oozing

  • Crusting

  • Itching

  • Burning

  • A sore that will not heal

If you have any of these symptoms, especially for more than a few days, see a doctor.

Inflammatory breast cancer

This is an uncommon type of invasive breast cancer. There is no lump or tumor, but the skin of the breast looks red, feels warm, and has a thick, pitted appearance that looks a lot like an orange peel. These changes are caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin. The breast may also be larger or firmer, tender, or itchy. In its early stages, inflammatory breast cancer is often mistaken for a breast infection called mastitis. This type of breast cancer tends to have a higher chance of spreading, a worse outlook than typical invasive ductal or lobular cancer, and requires more than one type of treatment.

Triple-negative breast cancer

This describes breast cancers that are usually invasive ductal carcinomas and do not have estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors. They also do not have an excess of the HER2 protein on their surfaces. These breast cancers tend to be more common in younger women and in African-American women. Triple-negative breast cancers tend to grow and spread faster than most other types of breast cancer. Because the tumor cells do not have the receptors, neither hormone therapy nor drugs that target HER2 work to treat these cancers; however surgery and chemotherapy are often used to treat this type of breast cancer.

Other types of breast cancer

There are other rare types of breast cancer, too. Talk to your doctor about the exact type of breast cancer you have and what it means regarding your treatment and prognosis. 

 
Related Items
Wellness Library
  Solving the Breast Cancer Puzzle
  Reducing Your Risk for Breast Cancer
  Certain Factors Help Predict Invasive Breast Cancer
  Hope on the Horizon for Breast Cancer
  Stay Healthy After Breast Cancer
Content Type 167
  BRCA
  CA 15-3
  CA 27-29
  Immunohistochemical Test for Estrogen and Progesterone Receptors
Cancer Source
  Sex and Cancer: Questions for Your Doctor
  Breast Cancer—Understanding Genetic Testing
  The Soy and Breast Cancer Controversy: Cause for Concern?
  The 'Chemobrain' Phenomenon in Breast Cancer
  MRIs for Breast Cancer Screening—Who Needs Them?
  Hormonal Therapy: Managing Side Effects in Women
  If You Are Having Hormonal Therapy
  What Is Breast Cancer?
  What to Know About Your Treatment Choices for Breast Cancer
  Ductal Carcinoma
  Statistics About Breast Cancer
  Can I Get Checked for Breast Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?
  What Can I Do if I Am at Risk for Breast Cancer?
  What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
  How Does My Doctor Know I Have Breast Cancer?
  Tests That Help Evaluate the Traits of Your Breast Cancer
  Understanding Your Grade and Stage of Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Surgery for Breast Cancer
  Breast Cancer: What Happens After Reconstructive Surgery
  Goal of Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
  Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment and Symptoms for Breast Cancer
  Finding Out You Have Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Combination Therapy for Breast Cancer
  How You Get Radiation for Breast Cancer
  What You Need to Know About Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Tips for Feeling Your Best During Treatment for Breast Cancer
  Taking Care of Your Incision After Breast Surgery
  How Your Doctor Uses Biopsies to Make Your Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
  Can I Survive Breast Cancer? What Is My Prognosis?
  Am I at Risk for Breast Cancer?
  Myths About What Causes Breast Cancer
  Questions to Ask About Treatment for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Surgery for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
  Making the Decision to Have Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Ovarian Ablation as Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What to Expect After Taking Hormone Therapy Drugs for Breast Cancer
  What to Know About Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer
  What Happens During Targeted Therapy for Breast Cancer
  Making the Decision to Have Breast Reconstruction After a Mastectomy for Breast Cancer
  When Breast Cancer Spreads to the Bones
  Exercising After Breast Cancer: Moving Toward Health
  Aromatase Inhibitors for Breast Cancer
Cancer FAQs
  Breast Cancer FAQ
NCI Patient Summary
  Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy (PDQ®)
Quizzes
  Breast Cancer Quiz
MRAs
  Breast Cancer Risk Assessment
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT)
  Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer Treatment
  About Clinical Trials: Information from the National Cancer Institute
  How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
  General Information About Breast Cancer
  Other Treatments for Breast Cancer
  National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP)
  Post-Mastectomy
  Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer Treatment
  Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
  Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
  Stages of Breast Cancer
  Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR)
  Breast Cancer Statistics
  About Taxol
  Breast Health: Three-Step Plan for Preventive Care
  Treatments for Breast Cancer
  Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (BRCA1/BRCA2)
  Genetics of Breast Cancer
  Breast Cancer Overview
Newsletters
  Should You Consider Preventive Drugs for Breast Cancer?
  Should You Be Tested for the Breast Cancer Gene?
Test and Procedures
  Breast Biopsy