Types Of Breast Cancer
There are two categories that reflect the nature of breast cancer:
- Noninvasive cancer is cancer that hasnt spread from the original tissue. This is referred to as stage 0.
- Invasive cancer is cancer thats spread to surrounding tissues. These are categorized as stages 1, 2, 3, or 4.
The tissue affected determines the type of cancer:
- Ductal carcinoma is a cancer that forms in the lining of the milk ducts. This is the most common type of breast cancer.
- Lobular carcinoma is cancer in the lobules of the breast. The lobules are where milk is produced.
- Sarcoma is cancer in the breasts connective tissue. This is a rare type of breast cancer.
When you visit your doctor with concerns about breast pain, tenderness, or a lump, there are common tests they might perform.
Breast Cancer Types And Symptoms
There are several kinds of breast cancer. Many of them share symptoms.
Symptoms of ductal carcinoma
This is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in your ducts. About 1 in 5 new breast cancers are ductal carcinoma in situ . This means you have cancer in the cells that line your ducts, but it hasnât spread into nearby tissue.
You may not notice any symptoms of ductal carcinoma. It can also cause a breast lump or bloody discharge.
Symptoms of lobular carcinoma
This kind begins in the glands that make milk, called lobules. Itâs the second most common type of breast cancer. Symptoms include:
- Fullness, thickening, or swelling in one area
- Nipples that are flat or point inward
Symptoms of invasive breast cancer
Breast cancer thatâs spread from where it began into the tissues around it is called invasive or infiltrating. You may notice:
- A lump in your breast or armpit. You might not be able to move it separately from your skin or move it at all.
- One breast that looks different from the other
- A rash or skin thatâs thick, red, or dimpled like an orange
- Skin sores
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Muscle weakness
Symptoms of triple-negative breast cancer
Breast cancer is called triple-negative if it doesnât have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone and doesnât make a lot of a protein called HER2. This kind tends to grow and spread faster than other types, and doctors treat it differently.
Symptoms of male breast cancer
- A small, hard cyst
What Are The Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast.
- A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple.
- A change in the look or feel of the skin on the breast or nipple .
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple.
- An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- A marble-like hardened area under the skin.
These changes may be found when performing monthly breast self-exams. By performing breast self-exams, you can become familiar with the normal monthly changes in your breasts.
Breast self-examination should be performed at the same time each month, three to five days after your menstrual period ends. If you have stopped menstruating, perform the exam on the same day of each month.
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Other Types Of Breast Cancer
Other less common types of breast cancer include invasive lobular breast cancer, which develops in the cells that line the milk-producing lobules, inflammatory breast cancer and Paget’s disease of the breast.
It’s possible for breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body, usually through the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. If this happens, it’s known as “secondary” or “metastatic” breast cancer.
My Surgeon Made Me Scared Jenna Diagnosed At 37
Jenna received a moderately differentiated IDC diagnosis. She was also carrying a genetic mutation and had cancer cells that divided more quickly. Jennas surgeon was actually very blunt about how aggressive her triple positive breast cancer was.
Fortunately, her oncologist was optimistic and gave her the best course of action for treatment. It included six rounds of chemo every three weeks , Herceptin for a year, and a double mastectomy. Jenna is in the process of finishing a five-year treatment of Tamoxifen.
Before Jennas treatment began, she froze her eggs to give her the option of being able to have children. Because of the gene mutation, Jenna also has an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Shes currently discussing with her doctor the option of removing her ovaries.
Jenna has now been cancer-free for over three years.
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Swelling In Or Around Your Breast Collarbone Or Armpit
Swelling in these areas can occur for many reasons but may indicate cancer. Breast swelling can be caused by certain types of breast cancer. Swelling or lumps around your collarbone or armpits can be caused by breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes in those areas. The swelling can occur even before you can feel a lump in your breast. If you have swelling, be sure to let your health care team know as soon as possible.
Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Although most breast cancers begin as lumps or tumors, inflammatory breast cancer usually starts with a feeling of thickness or heaviness in the breast. You also may develop red, inflamed skin on the breast. IBC tends to grow in the form of layers or sheets of tissue, which doctors sometimes call nests.
The breasts swell and become inflamed because the cancer cells clog the vessels that carry lymph. Lymph is a clear, watery fluid that transports white blood cells and removes bacteria and proteins from the tissues.
Common symptoms of IBC include:
- Redness of the breast: Redness involving part or all of the breast is a hallmark of inflammatory breast cancer. Sometimes the redness comes and goes.
- Swelling of the breast: Part of or all of the breast may be swollen, enlarged, and hard.
- Warmth: The breast may feel warm.
- Orange-peel appearance: Your breast may swell and start to look like the peel of a navel orange .
- Other skin changes: The skin of the breast might look pink or bruised, or you may have what looks like ridges, welts, or hives on your breast.
- Swelling of lymph nodes: The lymph nodes under your arm or above the collarbone may be swollen.
- Flattening or inversion of the nipple: The nipple may go flat or turn inward.
- Aching or burning: Your breast may ache or feel tender.
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Symptoms Of Angiosarcoma Of The Breast
Another rare form of breast cancer, angiosarcoma forms inside the lymph and blood vessels. Only a biopsy may definitively diagnose this type of cancer. Angiosarcoma can cause changes to the skin of your breast, such as the development of purple-colored nodules that resemble a bruise. These nodules, if bumped or scratched, may bleed. Over time, these discolored areas may expand, making your skin appear swollen in that area. You may or may not have breast lumps with angiosarcoma. If you also have lymphedema, which is swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid, angiosarcoma may occur in the affected arm. Cancer treatment sometimes damages the lymph vessels, which may lead to lymphedema.
What Causes A Fibroadenoma
Its unknown exactly what causes fibroadenomas. Hormones such as estrogen may play a part in the growth and development of the tumors. Taking oral contraceptives before the age of 20 has been associated with a higher risk of developing fibroadenomas as well.
These tumors may grow larger in size, particularly during pregnancy. During menopause, they often shrink. Its also possible for fibroadenomas to resolve on their own.
Some women have reported that avoiding foods and drinks that are stimulants like tea, chocolate, soft drinks, and coffee have improved their breast symptoms.
Even though this is worth trying, there are no studies that have scientifically established a link between ingesting stimulants and improving breast symptoms.
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Breast Pain And Breast Cancer In Men
As with breast cancer in women, breast cancer in men is often painless. That said, it tends to push on nearby structures more rapidly than a tumor would in most women. In addition, hormone-induced breast pain is also, of course, less likely to occur in men. If you are a man experiencing breast pain, play it safe. Breast cancer can and does occur in men, and though only one in 100 breast cancers occurs in men, that’s still far too frequent.
Just The Words Invasive And Noninvasive Can Change Everything
According to Dr. David Weintritt, board-certified breast surgeon and founder of the National Breast Center Foundation, there are two primary types of breast cancer: ductal carcinoma in situ and invasive ductal carcinoma .
Newer studies have shown that some people with DCIS can be under close observation rather than treated, which provides hope to those who are given this diagnosis. Approximately 20 percent of breast cancers are DCIS, or noninvasive. Thats 20 percent of people who breathe a little easier when hearing their diagnosis.
And the other 80 percent?
And even with an invasive breast cancer diagnosis, the treatment and experience isnt a one-size-fits-all.
Some are found early, some grow slowly, some are benign, and others are deadly. But what we all can relate to is the fear, stress, and tension that comes with the diagnosis. We reached out to several women* and asked about their experiences and stories.
*The four women interviewed agreed to use their first names. They wanted readers to know theyre real survivors and wanted to give hope to the next generation of women who receive a diagnosis.
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Is My Period Making My Breasts Sore
Its normal for your breasts to be painful in the week or two weeks before your period. This is a symptom of PMS and is known as cyclical breast pain.
Youre most likely to feel a dull, heavy and aching pain in both breasts at the same time. Your armpits may feel achy too.
If you think youre experiencing cyclical breast pain, it can help to keep a pain diary. For the next two months, make a note of when youre experiencing the pain and how bad it is. You could add a note to your phone calendar each day. This will help you to better understand when the pain happens and how bad it is. You could then talk through your findings with your local Marie Stopes SA provider.
In the meantime, these tips can help to ease breast pain:
- Wearing a supportive bra that fits you well during the day, and a soft, comfortable bra at night.
- Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.
- Rubbing on a pain-relieving gel.
Using a warm or cold compress. Experiment with warm compresses like a hot water bottle or cold compresses like an ice pack, to see which works best for you.
Breast Examination After Treatment For Breast Cancer
The incision line may be thick, raised, red and possibly tender for several months after surgery. Remember to examine the entire incision line.
If there is redness in areas away from the scar, contact your physician. It is not unusual to experience brief discomforts and sensations in the breast or nipple area .
At first, you may not know how to interpret what you feel, but soon you will become familiar with what is now normal for you.
After breast reconstruction
Following breast reconstruction, breast examination for the reconstructed breast is done exactly the same way as for the natural breast. If an implant was used for the reconstruction, press firmly inward at the edges of the implant to feel the ribs beneath. If your own tissue was used for the reconstruction, understand that you may feel some numbness and tightness in your breast. In time, some feeling in your breasts may return.
After radiation therapy
After radiation therapy, you may notice some changes in the breast tissue. The breast may look red or sunburned and may become irritated or inflamed. Once therapy is stopped, the redness will disappear and the breast will become less inflamed or irritated. At times, the skin can become more inflamed for a few days after treatment and then gradually improve after a few weeks. The pores in the skin over the breast also may become larger than usual.
What to do
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Breast Pain: 10 Reasons Your Breasts May Hurt
Most women experience some form of breast pain at one time or another. Breast pain is typically easy to treat, but on rarer occasions it can be a sign of something more serious.
Medical director of the Suburban Hospital Breast Center Pamela Wright, M.D., discusses the most common causes of breast pain , their treatments and when to see a doctor:
Hormones are making your breasts sore.
Hormonal fluctuations are the number one reason women have breast pain. Breasts become sore three to five days prior to the beginning of a menstrual period and stop hurting after it starts. This is due to a rise in estrogen and progesterone right before your period. These hormones cause your breasts to swell and can lead to tenderness.
Its normal to have breast tenderness that comes and goes around the time of your period, says Wright. Its nothing to worry about.
If you become pregnant, your breasts may remain sore during the first trimester as hormone production ramps up. Breast tenderness is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy for many women.
Steps you can take to minimize sore breasts include:
How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed
During your regular physical examination, your doctor will take a thorough personal and family medical history. He or she will also perform and/or order one or more of the following:
- Breast examination: During the breast exam, the doctor will carefully feel the lump and the tissue around it. Breast cancer usually feels different than benign lumps.
- Digital mammography: An X-ray test of the breast can give important information about a breast lump. This is an X-ray image of the breast and is digitally recorded into a computer rather than on a film. This is generally the standard of care .
- Ultrasonography: This test uses sound waves to detect the character of a breast lump whether it is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass . This may be performed along with the mammogram.
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may or may not request a biopsy to get a sample of the breast mass cells or tissue. Biopsies are performed using surgery or needles.
After the sample is removed, it is sent to a lab for testing. A pathologist a doctor who specializes in diagnosing abnormal tissue changes views the sample under a microscope and looks for abnormal cell shapes or growth patterns. When cancer is present, the pathologist can tell what kind of cancer it is and whether it has spread beyond the ducts or lobules .
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Tests To Determine Specific Types Of Treatment
You’ll also need tests that show whether the cancer will respond to specific types of treatment. The results of these tests can give your doctors a more complete picture of the type of cancer you have and how best to treat it. The types of test you could be offered are discussed below.
In some cases, breast cancer cells can be stimulated to grow by hormones that occur naturally in your body, such as oestrogen and progesterone.
If this is the case, the cancer may be treated by stopping the effects of the hormones, or by lowering the level of these hormones in your body. This is known as “hormone therapy”.
During a hormone receptor test, a sample of cancer cells will be taken from your breast and tested to see if they respond to either oestrogen or progesterone. If the hormone is able to attach to the cancer cells , they’re known as “hormone receptor positive”.
While hormones can encourage the growth of some types of breast cancer, other types are stimulated by a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 .
These types of cancer can be diagnosed using a HER2 test, and treated with medication to block the effects of HER2. This is known as “biological” or “targeted” therapy.
Itchy Breast Redness And Pain
The American Cancer Society mentions that while the most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump, other possible symptoms include skin irritation and dimpling, as well as redness, scaliness or thickening of the breast skin.1
Its common for breasts to be sore and sensitive during menstruation, but this symptom could mean something more serious if you have sore breasts sensitivity that persists after that period. There may also be swelling involved with skin that is warm to the touch, indicating the less common forms of inflammatory breast cancer.
It is worth noting that it is rare that breast pain or sore breasts after period is a sign of cancer. Doctors from Harvard Medical School say that sore tender breasts are usually not connected with breast cancer.
Cancer Research UK says that itchy breasts can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, however this is very rare. With this type of cancer, the area of skin over the tumor can become red, inflamed, painful and itchy.2
Inflammatory cancer may also cause swelling and pain in the chest. The skin may look scaly or have small blue marks similar to hemorrhages, somewhat like cellulite holes on the breast.
Doctors on WebMD say that a reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange could be a sign of advanced breast cancer. They also mention a marble-like area under the skin or indentation on the breast, which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt.3
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