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All about breast cancer types of breast cancer risk factors for breast cancer breast cancer symptoms breast cancer diagnosis stages of breast cancer causes of breast cancer breast cancer treatment side effects of breast cancer treatment breast cancer surgery chemotherapy for breast cancer radiation therapy for breast cancer hormone therapy for breast cancer breast cancer medications breast cancer prevention

What types of breast cancer are there?

Breast cancer is a type of uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that can develop in one of several different areas of the breast, including the ducts that carry milk to the nipple, the breast's lobules (small sacs that produce milk) and the breast's

nonglandular tissue.

Breast cancer was originally described according to its appearances, so words like scirrhous (meaning woody) were used and still appear in the literature. More recently, breast cancer has been classified according to its appearances when under the microscope. Early pathologists classified breast cancers into 'invasive ductal' cancers and 'invasive lobular' cancers believing that invasive ductal cancers arose in ducts and invasive lobular cancers in the lobules. However, it is now clear that all invasive ductal and invasive lobular cancers arise either in the terminal duct or the lobule. As the terms invasive ductal and lobular are in such common usage and as they have different appearances under the microscope they are still used.

A more logical classification divides tumours into those of 'special' and 'no special' type. Invasive carcinoma of no special type is also commonly referred to as invasive ductal carcinoma. It is the most common type and accounts for up to 85 per cent of all breast cancers. Special types of tumour have particular microscopic features and these include invasive lobular carcinoma, invasive tubular, cribriform, medullary and mucinous cancers, with other types being uncommon. Many of the special type cancers have a better prognosis - in other words the patient has a higher chance of survival.

When a cancer is examined under the microscope, it is usually possible to assess how aggressive it is: in other words how far and how fast it is likely to spread. The tumour may be assigned to one of three grades ranging from grade I to grade III in order of seriousness. For instance, a grade I cancer is non-aggressive and unlikely to cause harm. In contrast, grade III tumours are aggressive and likely to cause harm, but can sometimes be controlled with effective treatment.

The main forms of breast cancer are:
Invasive ductal carcinoma -This type of breast cancer develops in the milk ducts and accounts for about 79 percent of cases. It can break through the duct wall and invade the breast's fatty tissue, then metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

Invasive lobular carcinoma - This type of breast cancer accounts for about 10 percent of cases and originates in the breast's milk-producing lobules. It also can spread to the breast's fatty tissue and other places in the body.

Medullary, mucinous and tubular carcinomas - These are three slow-growing types of breast cancer. Together they represent about 10 percent of all breast cancers.

Paget's disease - This type represents about 1 percent of breast cancers. It starts in the milk ducts of the nipple and can spread to the areola (dark circle around the nipple). Women who get Paget's disease usually have a history of nipple crusting, scaling, itching or inflammation.

Inflammatory carcinoma This type accounts for about 1 percent of all cases. Of all breast cancers, inflammatory carcinoma is the most aggressive and difficult to treat, because it spreads so quickly.

As more women have regular mammograms, doctors are also detecting many more noninvasive or precancerous conditions before they become full-blown cancer. These conditions include:

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) - DCIS occurs when cancer cells fill the ducts but haven't yet spread through the walls into fatty tissue. Nearly all women diagnosed at this early stage can be cured. Without treatment, about 25 percent of DCIS cases will lead to invasive breast cancer within 10 years.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) - LCIS is less common and less of a threat than DCIS. It develops in the breast's milk-producing lobules. LCIS doesn't require treatment, but it does increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

More information on breast cancer

What is breast cancer? - Breast cancer is cancer of breast tissue. Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast. Breast tissue covers a larger area than just the breast.
What types of breast cancer are there? - Breast cancer is a type of uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that can develop in one of several different areas of the breast.
What're the risk factors for breast cancer? - Risk factors for breast cancer include age, geographical variation, reproductive factors, inherited risk, previous breast disease.
What're the symptoms of breast cancer? - Symptoms of breast cancer include breast lump, breast discharge, nipple inversion, or changes in the skin overlying the breast.
How is breast cancer diagnosed? - The mainstay of breast cancer diagnosis is the triad of clinical history, physical examination and imaging (mammography or ultrasound).
What're the stages of breast cancer? - The stages of breast cancer depends on its size and the extent to which it has spread to other parts of the body.
What causes breast cancer? - The exact cause or causes of breast cancer remain unknown. Hormonal influences play a role in the development of breast cancer.
What're the treatments for breast cancer? - Treatment for breast cancer begins with a decision about the type of surgery. Breast implants is used for breast reconstruction.
What're the side effects of breast cancer treatment? - The type and extent of breast cancer treatment side effects vary depending on the particular treatment involved, its duration, and its dose.
How is breast cancer treated with surgery? - Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for breast cancer. A breast biopsy is the removal of breast tissue for examination by a pathologist.
What's the chemotherapy for breast care? - Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. Chemotherapy involves being given a combination of anti-cancer medicines.
What's the radiation therapy for breast cancer? - Radiation therapy is often used to destroy any remaining breast cancer cells in the breast, chest wall, or axilla (underarm) area after surgery.
What's the hormone therapy for breast cancer? - Most breast cancer is sensitive to the female hormone oestrogen. Megestrol acetate is used for hormone treatment of advanced breast cancer.
What breast cancer medications are available? - Medications to treat breast cancer include selective estrogen-receptor modulators, aromatase inhibitors, biologic response modifiers.
Can breast cancer be prevented? - There is no known way to prevent breast cancer. But several preventive measures can be take to reduce risk of breast cancer.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005