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HomeFor Your HealthWhat distinguishes the different types of breast cancer?

What distinguishes the different types of breast cancer?

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Individuals can experience a whirlwind of emotions upon being diagnosed with cancer. No one ever expects to receive such a diagnosis, so the moment a physician delivers such news can be emotional and compromise a person’s ability to focus. Once those emotions settle down and individuals resolve to overcome the disease, they typically have a lot of questions.

One of the questions doctors will attempt to answer is which subtype of cancer a person has. For example, when doctors initially deliver a breast cancer diagnosis, they may explain that further testing will be necessary to determine precisely which type of breast cancer an individual has. Identifying the subtype of breast cancer helps doctors choose the most effective course of treatment, but it is understandable if patients and their families become confused during the process. The following rundown can help breast cancer patients understand this crucial next step after diagnosis.

How is breast cancer type determined?
The American Cancer Society notes that breast cancer type is determined by the specific cells in the breast that become cancer. The Mayo Clinic reports that a medical team will use a tissue sample from a patient’s breast biopsy or, for patients who have already undergone surgery, the tumor to identify the cancer type.

What are the types of breast cancer I might be diagnosed with?
There are many types of breast cancer, but some are more common than others. Invasive and non-invasive (also referred to as Òcarcinoma in situÓ) are the two main subtypes of breast cancer.

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According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the most common types of invasive breast cancer are invasive ductal carcinoma, which affects the inner lining of the milk ducts, and invasive lobular carcinoma, which originates from the glands that produce milk. The UPMC reports that the most common in situ types are ductal carcinoma in situ, which is cancer that remains within the milk ducts, and lobular carcinoma in situ, which does not often develop into breast cancer though it is considered a risk factor for an invasive form of the disease.

The ACS notes that triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer that accounts for roughly 15 percent of all breast cancers. Triple-negative breast cancer can be difficult to treat. Less common types of breast cancer, each of which accounts for between 1 and 3 percent of diagnoses in a given year, include Paget disease of the breast, angiosarcoma and phyllodes tumor.

A breast cancer diagnosis marks the beginning of a sometimes lengthy but often successful journey that has ended in full recovery for millions of women across the globe. More information about the various types of breast cancer can be found at cancer.org.

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