What are the different types of breast cancer?

Roughly 12 percent of women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer affects an estimated 600,000 women per year. Men also can develop breast cancer, although it is rare.

Did you know there many different types of breast cancer? Here’s what you need to know about the types and how to recognize symptoms.

What Are the Types of Breast Cancer?

There are several different kinds of breast cancer. Each is distinguished by the origin of the cancer cells and whether it has the potential to spread.

Invasive vs. non-invasive breast cancer

Invasive breast cancer can spread (or metastasize) throughout the breast and to other areas of the body. Non-invasive (also known as carcinoma in situ) breast cancer doesn’t spread. Since it can precede more invasive types, it is sometimes referred to as a precancerous condition.

At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we have experience in diagnosing and treating all types of breast cancer.

The common invasive types are:

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma, a breast cancer that affects the inner lining of the milk ducts. It accounts for about 80 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses in women, and 90 percent in men. Symptoms are wide-ranging and can be subtle in the early stages.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma, a breast cancer that originates from the glands that produce milk. Those diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma tend to notice a fullness and thickening of the breast rather than a breast lump.

The most common in situ types are:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ, the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer that remains within the milk ducts. This type of cancer may exist before invasive ductal carcinoma.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ, a non-invasive condition that rarely develops into breast cancer. However, lobular carcinoma is considered a high risk condition since it may increase your chances of developing an invasive type of breast cancer.

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Less Common Types of Breast Cancer

  • Paget’s disease of the nipple usually begins in the nipple ducts and spreads to the nipple and areola, causing redness and irritation. According to breastcancer.org, 97 percent of women with Paget’s disease have another form of cancer somewhere else in the breast.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive type of breast cancer in which the breast swells and reddens; it can be mistaken for less serious breast conditions like mastitis or cellulitis.
  • Angiosarcoma of the breast originates in cells that line the blood or lymph vessels. It often develops after previous radiation treatment in that area, according to the American Cancer Society.

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer symptoms vary widely. While the most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass, some types cause different, and sometimes subtler, symptoms. We recommend performing regular breast self-examinations and seeing a doctor if you notice:

  • Lumps in the breast
  • Thickening of breast tissue
  • Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening
  • Change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • An orange peel appearance
  • Itchy, scaly, or sore breasts
  • Nipple rash
  • Nipple retraction
  • Sudden nipple discharge
  • New, persistent pain in one spot

Treating Breast Cancer

At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we tailor a personalized treatment plan to meet the patient’s needs. Our treatments for breast cancer include:

  • Hormone therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Mastectomy

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

Early detection is important. If you don’t have symptoms or a family history of breast cancer, we recommend monthly breast self-examinations, annual breast examinations by your doctor, and an annual mammogram beginning at age 40.

For more information or to make an appointment, call UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at 412-647-2811.

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 60 locations throughout western Pennsylvania and Ohio, with more than 200 oncologists. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment.