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Types of Breast Cancer

Invasive Breast Cancers

Invasive breast cancers include infiltrating ductal carcinoma, infiltrating lobular carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer, medullary carcinoma, mucinous carcinoma, phyllodes tumor, and tubular carcinoma.

Infiltrating (or invasive) ductal carcinoma (IDC) is a cancer that starts in ducts of the breast and then breaks through the duct wall, where it spreads to the fatty tissue of the breast. It can also metastasize to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymphatic system. IDC, the most common type of invasive breast cancer, accounts for about 80% of breast malignancies.

Graphic of infiltrating lobular carcinomaInfiltrating (or invasive) lobular carcinoma (ILC) is a cancer that starts in lobules of the breast and then breaks through the lobule walls to involve the nearby fatty tissue. From this site, it may then metastasize to other parts of the body. ILC accounts for approximately 10% to 15% of invasive breast cancers. It is often difficult to detect this breast cancer by physical examination or even by mammography.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of infiltrating carcinoma that has spread to lymphatic vessels in the skin covering the breast. Cancer cells blocking lymph vessels cause the skin of the affected breast to look red and feel warm. The skin may also thicken to the consistency of an orange peel. About 1% of invasive breast cancers are inflammatory carcinomas.

Medullary carcinoma is a special type of infiltrating ductal carcinoma with especially sharp boundaries between tumor tissue and normal tissue. The tumor also has larger than average cancer cells, with immune system cells present on the edges of the tumor. About 5% of breast cancers are medullary carcinomas.

Mucinous carcinoma is a rare type of invasive breast cancer that is formed by mucous-producing cancer cells which spread the disease into surrounding tissue.

Phyllodes Tumor is a very rare type of tumor that forms in the connective tissue of the breast and is generally benign, although there are rare instances of malignancy. In the malignant form, the phyllodes tumor is treated by surgically removing the tumor along with a wide margin of normal tissue, or by mastectomy. Phyllodes tumors are not responsive to hormonal therapy and are less responsive than other breast cancers to chemotherapy or radiation. Benign phyllodes are generally treated by removing the tumor and a narrow margin of surrounding tissue. Malignant phyllodes are treated in the same manner; however, a wider margin of tissue is removed. In some instances, mastectomy is the indicated treatment for malignant phyllodes tumor. Less than 10 women a year die of this form of breast cancer.

Tubular carcinoma is a special type of low grade infiltrating breast cancer that accounts for about 2% of invasive breast cancers.

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