Breast cancer can develop in different areas of the breast (ducts, lobules or tissue), and have different characteristics (subtypes, staging) that can determine the course of treatment.
Risk factors for breast cancer
Regardless of the type of breast cancer, the risk factors are essentially the same. While the causes are not always certain, there are factors that may increase your risk, including:
- personal history of non-cancerous breast disease
- having genetic mutations, such as mutations in the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2
- family history of breast cancer
- having a first baby after age 30 or never having been pregnant
- having your first period before age 12 or starting menopause after age 55
Types of breast cancer
As a starting point, cancer can be either “in situ” or “invasive breast cancer.” Cancerous cells that have not spread beyond their area of origin are called carcinoma in situ. Invasive breast cancer is cancer of the breast that has grown and spread into breast tissue.
The most common types of breast cancer are:
- Ductal Carcinoma – Begins in the milk ducts, located just beneath the skin of the breast. There are two types of ductal carcinoma – ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). Ductal carcinoma in situ is also called intraductal carcinoma.
- Lobular Carcinoma - begins in the breast nodules, which are glands that produce milk. If the breast cancer cells are confined to the lobules, it’s called lobular carcinoma in situ. If the cells have spread into the breast tissue or lymph nodes, it is classified as invasive lobular carcinoma.
Less common types of breast cancer include:
- Inflammatory breast cancer - a rare form of breast cancer, representing between 1-5% of all breast cancer cases. It’s an aggressive form that progress quickly. It is called inflammatory breast cancer because it tends to make the breasts look red, swollen and inflamed.
- Paget’s disease of the nipple - a rare breast cancer type that affects the skin of the nipple and areola (the area of pigmented skin around the nipple). Most people who get Paget’s disease of the nipple also have other types of breast cancer, usually ductal carcinoma in situ or an invasive breast cancer.
- Phyllodes tumors of the breast - rare breast tumors that grow in a leaf-like pattern throughout the breast tissue. Most are not cancerous, though some of them are. This means they can show characteristics of both benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors.
Other characteristics of cancer include the presence or absence of hormone receptors, whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast, and if so, where the cancer has spread. For example, when breast cancer is present but the cells are estrogen-receptor negative, progesterone-receptor negative, and HER2 negative, that is considered triple negative. Knowing this information helps guide treatment because, for example, stage II breast cancer that is triple negative will be treated very differently than stage II breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor positive or HER2 positive.
Staging breast cancer
After a breast cancer diagnosis, doctors will stage the cancer, which helps decide the best treatment options. Staging also helps doctors provide a prognosis and figure out whether clinical trials or experimental treatments might be an option.
Treating breast cancer
Treatment for breast cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation. The stage, subtype and tumor characteristics will influence the recommended course of treatment.
Early detection saves lives: Mammograms at Beaumont
Roughly 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer this year. Having regular mammograms is an important part of detecting breast cancer early. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more likely it is that a treatment plan will be successful. To schedule a mammogram at Beaumont, call 800-328-8542 today.
Beaumont’s Comprehensive Breast Care Program
The Comprehensive Breast Care Program at Beaumont Hospitals integrates cancer prevention, early detection, rapid diagnosis, leading-edge therapies, and several support, education, and community-support programs. For an expedited and comprehensive breast evaluation, call 888-924-9460.