Typically, breast cancer cells form a tumor that can be seen on an X-ray or felt as a lump. Although breast cancer almost always develops in women, men can get it, too. It’s important to keep in mind that most breast lumps are benign (not cancerous). And with early detection, this cancer has a 90% survival rate.
While breast cancer may be the second most common cancer among women, it’s not common to you. Our compassionate team knows that a breast cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming. That’s why we come alongside you to explain each step of your treatment and make sure you have a plan that is tailored to every stage of your journey.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are many types of breast cancer that are described in different ways. It can be confusing, but we’re here for you with answers.
- In situ. This is also called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It is a cancer that starts in a milk duct and hasn’t developed into the rest of the breast tissue.
- Invasive. It is also called infiltrating. This cancer has spread into the surrounding breast tissue. The most common type is called invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), and it makes up the largest number of breast cancers that are diagnosed. Other types of invasive breast cancer include:
- Triple-negative breast cancer. An aggressive form of invasive breast cancer that makes up about 15% of all breast cancers. It is difficult to treat.
- Inflammatory breast cancer. It is an uncommon type of invasive breast cancer that accounts for about 1- 5% of all breast cancers.
There are other, more uncommon, types of breast cancer that include:
- Paget disease. This starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the nipple and then to the areola (the dark circle around the nipple). This rare breast cancer is only diagnosed in about 1-3% of all cases.
- Phyllodes tumors. These rare breast tumors develop in the connective tissue (stroma) of the breast. This differs from carcinomas, which develop in the ducts or lobules. Most of these tumors are benign, but some may be cancerous.
- Sarcomas. These breast cancers make up less than 1% of all breast cancers. An angiosarcoma starts in cells that line lymph vessels or blood vessels. This cancer may involve the breast tissue or the breast’s skin. Some sarcomas may be related to having earlier radiation therapy in that area.
Diagnosing Breast Cancer
We use advanced tools and methods to diagnose breast cancer.
- Breast ultrasound. Also known as sonography. This method uses sound waves to outline a part of the body that may have the disease.
- Clinical breast exam. A doctor or other health professional performs a thorough manual exam of the breast.
- Diagnostic mammogram. This is a targeted mammogram for women who exhibit breast problems such as a lump or nipple discharge. It is also used if an abnormal area appears during a screening mammogram.
- Ductogram. Also known as a galactogram. The test uses a special imaging technique to see if a tumor is causing nipple discharge.
- Nipple discharge exam. If there is discharge from the nipple it is collected and examined. It is studied under a microscope to detect cancer cells.
- Screening mammogram. This test takes an X-ray picture of the breast.
Treating Breast Cancer
Your care team will work with you to tailor the right course of treatment for the type of breast cancer you have. Talk about all your concerns, discuss your options, and ask lots of questions — including the goals of the treatment and the possible side effects. As your care team, that’s what we’re here for: to help you make one of the most important decisions of your life. Treatments may include (in alphabetical order):
- Chemotherapy. This treatment can cure or help control cancer and ease its symptoms. Chemo treatments use specialized medicines to kill cancer cells. Our locations provide chemotherapy infusions in comfortable, private bays that are supported by highly trained infusion nurses.
- Hormone therapy. Some cancers test positive for certain hormones that can be treated with hormone-blocking therapy. This treatment can slow or stop the cancer cells from growing or metastasizing.
- Immunotherapy. Your immune system protects your body from illness and harmful foreign substances. Immunotherapy is just one form of precision medicine we offer that boosts your body's immune system - helping it recognize and attack cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy. This treatment can be used by itself, with surgery, chemotherapy, or both. It’s a pain-free treatment that shrinks or destroys cancer cells while still protecting healthy tissue. Your team will guide you to our sophisticated forms of radiation treatment, which include image guided radiation therapy (IGRT), intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), such as the CyberKnife®.
- Surgery. This is the most common treatment for breast cancer.
- Lumpectomy. Our skilled surgeons remove the affected area of the breast.
- Mastectomy. This surgery removes one or both breasts.
- Reconstructive. Patients who have mastectomies may choose to have breast reconstruction. This rebuilds the breast tissue that’s removed during surgery.
- Targeted therapy. This treatment targets certain proteins on cancer cells that control how the cells grow and spread. Based on your type of cancer, our medical oncologists can test a cancer cell and its potential reaction to medicine. We test tumors to see if it contains targets and determine if there is medicine available to fight those targets.