Breast Cancer Overview
Types of Breast Cancer
Though the vast majority of people with breast cancer are female, the disease
can also affect men. The term breast cancer describes any malignant tumor
that forms in the breast tissue, of which there are two main types. These are:
This is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in the lining
of the milk ducts, thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules of the
breast to the nipple. Ductal carcinoma also consists of two sub-types,
ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive ductal carcinoma. DCIS is
non-invasive in nature. The abnormal cancer cells stay where they are
found, while invasive ductal carcinoma can spread to the rest of the body.
This type of breast cancer that develops from the lobules of the breast,
which are the glands that actually produce breastmilk. Non-invasive lobular
carcinoma rarely spreads outside the infected lobule; this term describes
a variety of types of breast cancer, not just one. Invasive lobular carcinoma
can spread to the rest of the body.
Breast Cancer Stages
Stages of breast cancer are described as numbers on a scale of 0 to IV
(1-4) in order of severity.
Cancer cells are confined to the part of breast where they are originally detected.
In stage IA: The tumor is no larger than 2 cm and remains in the breast. No lymph nodes
In stage IB: Small clusters of breast cancer cells (0.2 mm – 2mm) are found in
lymph nodes regardless of the existence of tumor in the breast.
In stage IIA: Tumor (0-2 cm) is found in the breast. Cancer (larger than 2 mm) is detected
in 1 to 3 axillary lymph nodes or in the lymph nodes near the breastbone.
Or tumor (2-5 cm) is found in the breast without cancer in lymph nodes.
In stage IIB: Tumor (2-5 cm) is found in the breast. Small clusters of breast cancer
cells (0.2 mm – 2 mm) are observed in the lymph nodes, or cancers
have spread to 1-3 axillary lymph nodes, or lymph nodes near the breastbone.
Or tumor (Larger than 5 cm) is found in the breast but without lymph nodes
In stage IIIA: Cancer is found in 4-9 axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breastbone
regardless of the size of the tumor. Or tumor (larger than 5 cm) is found
in the breast. Meanwhile, small clusters of breast cancer cells (0.2 mm
– 2 mm) are detected in the lymph nodes or cancer has spread to
1 to 3 axillary lymph nodes or to the lymph nodes near the breastbone.
In stage IIIB: The size of tumor does not really matter in this stage. Cancer has spread
to chest wall and/or to the skin of the breast and caused swelling or
an ulcer. Also, cancer may infect up to 9 axillary lymph nodes, or the
lymph nodes near the breastbone.
In stage IIIC: Regardless of the size of the tumor, cancer has spread to the skin of the
breast and caused swelling or an ulcer and/or has spread to the chest
wall; Also, cancer may infect up to 10 lymph nodes above or below the
collarbone; or axillary lymph nodes and lymph nodes near the breastbone.
In stage IV, cancer has spread to other organs of the body, most often
the bones, lungs, liver, or brain.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
There are many potential causes of breast cancer, some inherited, some
based on lifestyle and some with no apparent cause. Gender, age, and family
genetic influence are among those risks that can’t be changed. However,
living a healthy lifestyle always reduces risk.
Although men can and occasionally do get breast cancer, risk is far higher
for women and increases with age. Other established risk factors for breast
- Family and personal history of breast cancer
- Radiation to chest or face before age 30
- Certain breast changes
- Race/ ethnicity
- Being overweight
- Pregnancy history
- Breastfeeding history
- Menstrual history
- Using HRT
- Drinking alcohol
- Having dense breasts
- Lack of exercise
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Breast cancer symptoms develop progressively; most women first discover
just one or two signs. Here are some of the common symptoms of breast cancer:
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area.
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- A change in the skin texture (may similar to an orange peel’s texture)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaling, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- A nipple discharge other than breast milk
Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you definitely have
breast cancer, but they should be checked out. Call your healthcare provider
if you have any of these symptoms or any others that you find unusual.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Our all-female staff is focused on providing personal and compassionate
care. We believe that early detection and proper treatment provides the
best chance for full recovery and preservation of the affected breast.
The main types of breast cancer treatments are:
For additional information about the Breast Cancer Program at the Torrance
Memorial Hunt Cancer Institute,
call our Breast Nurse Navigators at 310-784-6335.