To Your Health! The 7 Different Types of Breast Cancer

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By Corinne Hiser, ANP

Breast cancer is a universal term to describe several different cancers that form in and around the breasts. Breast cancer types are generally categorized based on where the illness begins, most often in the ducts or lobules, the parts of the female anatomy responsible for producing breast milk.

About 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer in American women will be diagnosed in 2012. The National Breast Cancer Foundation lists seven different types of breast cancer. Here’s a look at them.

  1. Ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS): This is an early form of breast cancer that refers to the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast. This type of cancer is generally found during mammograms and is considered non-invasive. This means it hasn’t spread yet. This makes treatment for DCIS easier than for other forms of breast cancer.
  2. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC): Also known as invasive ductal carcinoma, this is the most common type of breast cancer. According to, roughly 80% of all breast cancer cases are IDC. This cancer starts in the ducts. Infiltrating means that it spreads to the surrounding breast tissue. Over time, IDC can spread to the lymph nodes and possibly to other areas of the body.
  3. Medullary carcinoma: This is a less common form of breast cancer. It is a type of IDC, but it gets its name from the color of the tumors, which are close to the color of brain tissue, or medulla. Medullary carcinoma is quite visible during mammograms because the cancer cells are large and form a barrier between healthy tissue and tumors. Medullary carcinoma accounts for 15% of all breast cancer types. It most frequently occurs in women in their late 40s and 50s.
  4. Infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC): The American Cancer Society says that 1 in 10 women will be diagnosed with ILC, which originates in the milk-producing glands of the breast. In ILC, abnormal cells inside the lobule begin to divide and break through the wall of the lobule to invade the surrounding connecting tissues. Infiltrating lobular carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that usually appears as a subtle thickening in the upper-outer quadrant of the breast. This breast cancer type represents 5% of all diagnoses. Often positive for estrogen and progesterone receptors, these tumors respond well to hormone therapy.
  5. Tubular carcinoma: Making up about 2% of all breast cancer diagnoses, tubular carcinoma cells have a distinctive tubular structure when viewed under a microscope. Typically, this type of breast cancer is found in women 50 and older. It has an excellent 10-year survival rate of 95%.
  6. Mucinous carcinoma (Colloid): This is a rare condition in which the breast cancer cells within the breast produce mucus. The mucus and the cancer cells join together to form a jelly-like tumor. The tumors may feel like bumpy water balloons, but some are too small to detect with the fingers. Mucinous carcinoma represents approximately 1-2% of all breast carcinoma. It has a favorable prognosis in most cases.
  7. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC): This is a rare and very aggressive type of breast cancer that causes the lymph vessels in the skin around the breast to become blocked. The cancer gets its name from the appearance of a swollen, red, and inflamed breast. IBC accounts for 1-5% of all breast cancer cases in the United States.

Women are advised to get a baseline mammogram at 40 unless there is a strong family history; then the recommendation is for earlier mammography, based on your medical provider’s recommendation and current guidelines. Mammograms should be yearly thereafter.

Early detection is generally vital for any form of cancer and is especially so for breast cancer.

Here are several of the many websites available: (The American Cancer Society) (National Cancer Institute) (Susan G. Komen Foundation)

M! ON 2012


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