Breast Cancer: Not Just One Disease

There are many types of breast cancer, and the “cure” for one type may not be effective on another.  Below is a brief description of each of the most commonly found types of the disease.

Ductal Carcinoma In-situ (DCIS) This early form of non-invasive breast cancer is characterized by abnormal cells that lie within the milk ducts of the breast and does not invade the surrounding tissue.   It isgenerally found because of abnormal calcifications seen on a mammogram. The term, in situ, is Latin for  “in place.”  This is the pre-invasive form of IDC (see below).

Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) Also known as invasive ductal carcinoma, this is the most common type of breast cancer—estimated at 80% of all breast cancers.  This cancer starts in the ducts and invades/infiltrates the surrounding tissue.  Over time IDC can spread to lymphnodes and other organs of the body.

Medullary Carcinoma This less common form of breast cancer is a subtype of IDC, named for the tumors which tend to look soft and fleshy like the medulla of the brain. Medullary carcinoma is quite visible during mammograms because the cancer cells are large and form a barrier between healthy tissue and the tumor.

Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) This form of breast cancer, which represents 10-15% of all invasive breast cancers, is found in the milk-producing lobules of the breast. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 1 in 10 women will develop ILC in a lifetime.  The cancer cells break through the lobules and invade the surrounding tissue.  (Pre-invasive form is LCIS)

Lobular Carcinoma In-situ (LCIS) This non-invasive, early form of cancer is characterized by abnormal cells that lie within the milk-producing lobules of the breast.  It is often found in both breasts when first detected in one.

Mucinous Carcinoma (also known as Colloid) This rare condition is marked by the production of mucus by the cells of the breast. The mucus and the cancer cells join together to form a jelly-like, bumpy tumor.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) This is a rare and very aggressive form of breast cancer that cause blocking of  the lymph vessels, the tiny tubes that bring white blood cells to the skin to fight infection. The skin of the breast often resembles an orange skin and the breast becomes red, swollen, inflamed and tender.  The nipple can also demonstrate changes, such as inversion or bleeding.

Male Breast Cancer The ACS estimates that approximately 2,000 cases of male breast cancer will occur this year.  Men have breast tissue, just like women, but testosterone stalls the breast tissue from developing like female breasts.  Men should look for changes in the breast such as lumps, inverted nipple, skin dimpling or puckering around the nipple or discharge from the breast.

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