For a lot of people, the words “breast cancer” might suggest a single type of cancer with one type of treatment. In reality, “breast cancer” is an all-encompassing phrase to describe the many different types of cancers that can affect the breasts. Let’s talk about the most common types of breast cancers and how they can affect you.
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)
It is the most common form of breast cancer and it starts in a milk duct. Eventually, this breaks through the wall of the duct, spreads into the fatty tissue within the breast and can metastasize to other areas of the body. It does this by traveling through the blood stream and the lymphatic system. This “invasion” of other parts of the body is why it’s called “invasive ductal carcinoma.”
An estimated 80 percent of all breast cancer cases are IDC, and while people at any age can get it, IDC typically shows up in women older than 55. This type of cancer also affects men.
With IDC, it may take a while for symptoms to show up and oftentimes it is caught when patients go in for a regular mammogram screening.
Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)
Invasive lobular carcinoma is the second most common type of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 10 percent of all invasive breast cancers are ILC cases.
This type of cancer refers to when cancer starts in the milk-producing lobules, breaks through the wall and invades other tissues in the breast. As with IDC, ILC can then spread to the rest of the body through the lymphatic system.
Treatment for ILC typically includes surgery and radiation therapy, but can also include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and other targeted therapies.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)
Ductal carcinoma in situ is also fairly common and is considered noninvasive or pre-invasive. When a doctor diagnoses you as having DCIS, it means the cells along the ducts have changed and look like cancer cells, but have not spread through the walls of the ducts into the breast tissue – meaning the cancer has not metastasized. The downside, however, is this type of cancer carries a higher risk for coming back after treatment.
Treatment limited to a lumpectomy means patients have a 25 to 30 percent chance of a recurrence. Adding radiation therapy to the treatment typically means chances of recurrence drop to 15 percent.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Sometimes, symptoms of breast cancer aren’t easy to recognize or don’t show up initially, so the best way to find out whether you have breast cancer is to follow the mammogram schedule your doctor recommends. If you do have breast cancer, the following symptoms could present themselves and it is essential that you schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible:
- Swelling of all or part of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast pain
- Nipple pain
- Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge that isn’t breast milk
- Lumps in the underarm area
Again, the best course of action is to follow the mammogram schedule recommended by your physician. Catching breast cancer early is the key to curing it.
Dr. Judith Munoz is a board-certified specialist in women’s health, breast care and radiology at Kelsey-Seybold’s Main Campus. She’s one of the pioneers of the Kelsey-Seybold Breast Diagnostic Center.