Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 12 different types of breast cancer - Part 3

Breast cancer can be of different types and grades, depending on where it starts in the breast, whether it is invasive and how quickly it spreads.

Myupchar October 24, 2019 14:26:04 IST
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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 12 different types of breast cancer - Part 3
  • One in 28 women in India is statistically likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime

  • Breast cancer can be of different types and grades, depending on where it starts in the breast, whether it is invasive and how quickly it spreads

  • Arming yourself with knowledge is the first step towards better health

One in 28 women in India is statistically likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime - the chances increase to one in 22 if you consider just urban Indian women.

Breast cancer can be of different types and grades, depending on where it starts in the breast, whether it is invasive and how quickly it spreads. The treatment for each stage, grade and type can vary.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month 12 different types of breast cancer  Part 3

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Arming yourself with knowledge is the first step towards better health - a cancer diagnosis is far from a death sentence today, and the earlier we catch the disease, the better the prognosis.

As we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we bring to you the final article in a three-part series (Part 1 and Part 2) on the types of breast cancer.

Listed below are five types of cancer in increasing order of aggressiveness.

Ductal carcinoma in situ

As the name suggests, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) begins in the milk ducts but it does not spread to any other part of the breast. It is a pre-cancerous stage when “atypical” cells have just started to grow in the milk ducts. That means it can turn invasive later and spread.

DCIS is not an immediate concern, though it has to be treated to prevent it from becoming invasive. Treatment options generally include a breast-conserving surgery, where the tumour is removed along with a small part of healthy tissue. In some cases, patients may even opt for complete removal of the breasts (mastectomy).

Breast lymphoma

Lymphoma refers to any kind of cancer that begins in the lymphatic system - a network of ducts that run parallel to the blood vessels and carry immune system cells like the white blood cells (WBCs).

Primary breast lymphomas are usually benign (do not spread) and do not appear clearly in a mammogram. Breast lymphoma accounts for 0.1% to 0.5% of cases and usually develops in the right breast. It is primarily diagnosed through a tissue biopsy. The most common type of breast lymphoma is non-Hodgkins.

Breast sarcoma

Breast sarcomas account for less than 1% of cases. Cancer begins in the connective tissues surrounding the milk ducts and lobules (glands where milk is produced). The cells in this type of cancer look very different from the normal cells and usually divide rapidly.

Certain immune system diseases, chemotherapy and radiotherapy increase the risk of this type of breast cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a highly aggressive type of breast cancer - it usually progresses within months or even weeks.

IBC accounts for 1% to 5% of all breast cancers. Patients typically experience inflammation - redness and swelling - in the breast as cancerous growth blocks the lymph ducts, leading to fluid buildup.

Among the other classic signs of IBC are inverted nipples (they look like they’ve turned inward) and dimpling (tiny hollows in the skin).

Studies show that IBC affects obese women more commonly than women of healthy weight.

Metaplastic breast cancer

Metaplastic breast cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Cells in this type of cancer are often triple-negative (they don’t respond to hormonal therapy or targetted therapies - the most common treatments for cancer).

Under the microscope, metaplastic breast cancer cells look a lot like normal ductal cells, except for the size - they appear to be larger. This makes it harder to diagnose metaplastic breast cancer.

This type of cancer also has a high rate of recurrence and metastasis - spreading to other tissues beyond the breasts. A rare type of cancer, it accounts for less than 1% of the total breast cancer cases.

What to do next

Recently, Bal Gill, a 41-year-old woman found out she had early-stage breast cancer during a visit to the Camera Obscura & World of Illusions in the UK. British newspapers reported that a thermal imaging camera at the photography museum picked up a “heat patch radiating from her left breast”. That prompted her to see her doctor about it.

Gill was lucky - she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and is now undergoing treatment. Most breast cancers are detected at later stages, however, when the survival rate drops dangerously. That is why regular testing is so important. If you are a woman over 40 years old, check with your doctor about the right breast-cancer test for you.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our articles on Mammography and Breast Cancer Surgery.

The first article in this three-part series focused on breast cancers that typically affect younger women. The second article was on types of invasive breast cancer.

Updated Date:

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