Types of Breast Cancer

Your Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) breast specialists will review your breast imaging (mammogram, ultrasound and/or breast MRI) and your biopsy results to determine the most appropriate treatment options.

Types of Breast Cancer Topics

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)

When abnormal cells stay inside the milk ducts and do not spread to nearby tissue, the condition is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), also known as intraductal carcinoma or pre-invasive breast cancer. DCIS is the earliest stage of breast cancer, stage 0 breast cancer. DCIS does not spread to the lymph nodes or metastasize (meaning it doesn’t spread to other parts of the body).

Learn more about ductal carcinoma in situ.

Invasive Breast Cancer

When abnormal cells break through the wall of the milk duct and grow in the fatty tissue of the breast they are called invasive or infiltrating breast cancer. These breast cancers have the potential to spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Biologically, invasive breast cancer is not a single disease but actually several different diseases, which can act differently depending on their distinctive genetic makeup. Invasive breast cancer is categorized as stage I, II, III, or IV, depending on the size of the tumor, and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Invasive ductal cancer (IDC) means that the cancer cells, which started inside the milk duct, have broken through the duct wall and are growing in the breast’s fatty tissue. These cancer cells tend to grow close together and most often form a lump in the breast tissue. IDC may spread to lymph nodes and other areas of the body. It is the most common type of invasive breast cancer.

Invasive lobular cancer (ILC) occurs when cancer cells in the milk ducts near the milk-producing glands (lobules) break through the wall and grow in the breast’s fatty tissue. Invasive lobular cancer cells tend to grow in single-file lines and often do not form a lump. ILC has the potential to spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

Learn more about invasive breast cancer.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare but aggressive type of breast cancer that may be misdiagnosed as a breast infection because the breast appears red or inflamed. Unlike other types of breast cancer, IBC generally does not present with a lump. IBC is typically diagnosed through a clinical exam, and confirmed with a breast biopsy. Prompt and accurate diagnosis and treatment is important because of the aggressive nature of the disease.

Learn about the DF/BWCC Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program.

Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is often thought of as a disease that affects only women, but men can be diagnosed with breast cancer, too. We offer care that is dedicated to the unique needs of men. Our specialists will work with you to develop a treatment plan that supports your medical and emotional needs.

Learn about the DF/BWCC Male Breast Cancer Program.

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC), also known as advanced breast cancer, is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and axillary lymph nodes (lymph nodes underneath the arm) into other parts of the body. MBC may be found at the initial breast cancer diagnosis, or it can occur years after the original breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. While there is no cure for MBC, patients can usually be offered treatment to help prolong life and improve or maintain a good quality of life.
 
Multiple treatment options are available. Women and men living with MBC will likely need to change therapies as some cease to work or new treatments become available. A partnership with a DF/BWCC oncologist will help in this decision-making to ensure that treatment decisions are balanced with offering a good quality of life. MBC patients should talk with their physicians about their individual cases to develop plans that are best for them.

Learn about the DF/BWCC Metastatic Breast Cancer Program.

Resources

Learn more about breast cancer at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Read more information about the types of breast cancer at Susan G. Komen.

Access information about the types of breast cancer provided by The American Society of Breast Surgeons Foundation.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

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