Torrance Memorial Breast Cancer Program

Though incidence is down and survival is vastly improved, breast cancer remains the most common cancer among American women. The newest figures show that by the time they reach their seventies, one in eight women will have developed breast cancer. Here at the Hunt Cancer Institute, we are dedicated to providing warm, compassionate and expert care for women with breast cancer, through every step of their journey, diagnosis through treatment and in the years of survivorship that lie ahead.

We offer comprehensive breast health services, including education, diagnosis, treatment and support. We have invested in state-of-the-art technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, including 3D mammography, ultrasound and breastMRI, stereotactic (nonsurgical) mammotomy biopsy, surgical biopsy aided by needle localization, and sentinel lymph node mapping system.

Learn more about our Breast Diagnostic Centers

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:

Ductal Carcinoma

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.

Lobular Carcinoma

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 are infected.

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 infected.


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 cancer include:

  • 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
  • Smoking

Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Breast cancer signs and 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 Screening

An American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Center of Excellence

Mammography remains the safest and most reliable way to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most curable form.

Since 1986, our Torrance Memorial Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center has been a leader in women’s health care in the South Bay community and surrounding cities. The Center is recognized by the American College of Radiology as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence. At our Center, our standard of care is to have a board-certified radiologist experienced in mammography rigorously review each mammogram to ensure the preciseness and accuracy of the test result.

Learn More about the Breast Diagnostic Centers

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

If you find a lump or another type of worrisome symptom or a screening mammography detects a breast abnormality, we offer a variety of diagnostic screening modalities. Based on your symptoms and history, your doctor will recommend the right strategy for you.

Here are the preliminary technologies we use to learn more about a potential breast cancer diagnosis:

  • Diagnostic mammography: Done the same way as screening mammography, the diagnostic mammogram provides more thorough images of the area of concern.
  • Ultrasound: This painless, non-invasive form of imaging uses sound waves to produce detailed images of the tissue inside the breast.
  • Breast MRI: Often used to evaluate a lump or other breast abnormality, breast MRI uses magnetic imaging to determine the actual size of a lesion or tumor and to determine whether any other abnormalities are present in the breast.

Diagnostic mammography, ultrasound and breast MRI are all forms of breast screening or imaging tests. Their results help to guide biopsy, which is the only way to tell if the cancer really exists.

Technologies for Breast Biopsy

A biopsy is required to make a definitive diagnosis of breast cancer and to identify its type. Here are the types of breast biopsy we perform at Torrance Memorial:

  • Stereotactic (nonsurgical) mammotomy biopsy: This technology precisely locates and accurately diagnoses lumps that cannot be felt. It can be performed on an outpatient basis and you may resume normal activities the same day.
  • Traditional surgical biopsy, aided by needle localization: A local anesthetic is used to numb the area, followed by insertion of a wire (needle) into the lesion, which removes a sample for testing.
  • Sentinel lymph node mapping: As an adjunct to the surgical biopsy, this test seeks information about whether cancer may have spread. A small amount of radioactive substance is injected beneath the nipple; it travels to the auxiliary lymph nodes to identify them so they can be targeted for removal and testing. Nodes are then sampled to exclude the presence of cancer.

Breast Cancer Treatment

Our all-female 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 More Information

For additional information about the breast cancer program at Torrance Memorial, call our Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator at 310-784-6384 or email

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Suszan Kim

Beating Breast Cancer… celebrating success!