What to know about the different types of breast cancer
Types of breast cancer and related conditions
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women. In 2018, it affected nearly 230,000 American women. Breast cancer is usually treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapies, targeted treatments, immunotherapy, and/or biological treatment. These are some of the many options that are used to treat breast cancer.
Invasive breast cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women worldwide. In 2018, it was estimated that 2,088,780 people are living with invasive breast cancer. This number represents 12% of all newly diagnosed cases of cancer. Breast cancer is usually detected early because of changes in breast tissue, such as lumps or thickening. However, sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
The most common type of breast carcinoma is called invasive breast cancer. It occurs when cells within the mammary gland begin to grow abnormally and spread to surrounding tissues. Invasive breast cancer accounts for about 85% of all breast cancer diagnoses.
Invasive breast cancer is classified into several types according to how the tumor spreads. These include:
• Infiltrating ductal carcinoma – This form of breast cancer starts in the milk glands. It grows slowly and tends to spread locally.
• Infiltrating lobular carcinoma – This form begins in the lobules, which make up the main part of the breast. Lobular carcinomas tend to spread quickly, often invading nearby lymph nodes and blood vessels.
• Medullary carcinoma – This type of breast cancer begins in the lining of the milk ducts. It is slow growing and rarely spreads beyond the area where it began.
• Mucinous carcinoma – This rare type of breast cancer begins deep inside the breast tissue. It is very hard to detect.
Invasive lobular breast cancer
Invasive lobular breast cancer makes up about 20% of all breast cancers diagnosed worldwide. This form of breast cancer usually begins in one area of the breast called the lobule. Lobules are small glands that produce milk during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They are found in both breasts.
While invasive lobular breast cancer tends to spread slowly throughout the body, it does tend to grow quickly. Because of this, early detection is key. Most women do not experience symptoms of invasive lobular breast cancer until there is significant growth. Early signs include thickening of the skin, nipple discharge, pain, swelling, redness, dimpling, hard lumps, bleeding or peeling.
Triple negative breast cancer
Around 15% of breast cancers are triple negative breast cancer. These are breast cancers that do not express estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors or HER2/neu. They tend to grow faster, spread quicker and respond less well to treatments. But triple negative breast cancer is uncommon. In fact, it accounts for around 10% of breast cancers diagnosed each year. And there are many reasons why.
Symptoms include swelling and tenderness in one area of the breast. You may notice blood coming from the nipple. Your doctor may find lumps under your arm or in the armpit. Sometimes you won’t see anything unusual.
Diagnosis involves taking samples of tissue from the lump. Tests will show whether the cells are malignant. If they are, the tumour needs to be removed surgically. Treatment depends on how far the cancer has grown and what stage it is.
Breast cancer in men
In the United States alone, there are about 2,500 cases of breast cancer among men every year. While breast cancer is much less common in males compared to women, it still affects one man in eight during his lifetime. Men are usually diagnosed later than women because symptoms often do not present themselves until the disease is already well along. There are several reasons why men develop breast cancer. Some risk factors include having a family history of the disease, being older than 50, having never been pregnant, obesity, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and exposure to radiation therapy.
The good news is that most cases of male breast cancer are treatable and curable. However, treatment options depend on whether or not the tumor is hormone sensitive. Hormone sensitive tumors tend to grow faster and spread more aggressively than those that aren’t. This makes early detection crucial.
Men who experience unexplained weight loss, swelling, pain, nipple discharge, or skin changes should see their doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can improve outcomes and increase survival rates.
Ductal or lobular carcinoma
Cancer cells grow in one of three ways: slowly over many months; quickly over several weeks; or very rapidly over days. Carcinomas begin growing in the lining of the organ where it develops. They often spread into nearby tissue and lymph nodes. Breast cancer begins in either the ducts or the lobules, which are small glands in the breast that produce milk. These types of breast cancer are known as carcinomas because they originate from the same type of cell found in skin, lungs, cervix, ovaries, prostate, bladder, kidney, uterus and testicles. Adenocarcinomas are named after their resemblance to the glandular structures in the intestines.
Adenocarcinomas account for about 90% of cases of invasive breast cancer and 70% of cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a less serious type of breast cancer. DCIS occurs when abnormal cells develop inside the milk ducts or lobes. In some women, however, there is no evidence of disease even though the tumor has been present for many years. This is called latent or occult breast cancer.
Invasive breast cancer (ILC or IDC)
The most common type of breast cancer is invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). This form of breast cancer spreads directly into nearby tissues such as skin, muscle, bone, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), while less common, accounts for 15-20% of all cases of breast cancer.
Special types of invasive breast cancers
Some invasive breast cancers have special characteristics that affect how they behave and what treatments work best. They include triple negative breast cancer, lobular carcinoma in situ, medullary carcinoma, metaplastic carcinoma, mucinous carcinoma, papillary carcinoma, Paget disease, phyllodes tumor, tubulolobular carcinoma, tubular carcinoma, and urothelial carcinoma.
These cancers are less common but more serious than other types. They tend to grow faster and spread more often than other forms of breast cancer. Because of this, it’s important to keep track of your health and follow up with regular screenings.
Triple-negative breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In 2018, approximately 2 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed globally each year. About one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Breast cancer is classified into different types based on how it behaves and what causes it. Some forms of breast cancer are easy to cure while others are harder to treat.
One such subtype is triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), which doesn’t respond well to hormone therapy or chemotherapy. TNBC represents around 15 per cent of all breast cancers and tends to occur in younger women. While some treatments exist for TNBC, there is no standard treatment for patients with the disease.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Invasive breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer affecting women worldwide. In 2017, there were 2.4 million cases diagnosed globally. Approximately 20,000 people died from the disease in 2016. Breast cancer affects both men and women; however, it is much less prevalent in males compared to females.
Breast cancer develops when normal breast tissue becomes abnormal. This usually happens because of changes in genes. These changes lead to uncontrolled cell growth and division. When this occurs in the breast, it causes abnormal cells to grow outwards into nearby tissues and organs.
There are different types of breast cancer, including ductal carcinoma in situ, lobular carcinoma in situ, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), medullary carcinoma, mucinous adenocarcinoma, papillary carcinoma, Paget’s disease, phyllodes tumor, sarcoma, tubular carcinoma, metaplastic carcinoma, and undifferentiated carcinoma. IBC is a very aggressive form of breast cancer. It is characterized by rapid onset, high risk of metastasis, and poor prognosis.
The treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer and include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and palliative care.