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Common Types of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women in the world today, and is the most common type of cancer among females. In fact, studies show that over one million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year]. Caused by cancerous cells in the breast, this condition, although it primarily affects females, can develop in men as well.

Cancer of the breast is usually spotted through self-detection methods, medical examinations or mammograms. Once a problem is detected, the next course of action is a biopsy to assess the cancer’s type and stage. Once stage and type have been confirmed, the patient typically undergoes treatments that involve surgery to remove the cancer and affected tissues, radiation and chemotherapy.

There are several different types of breast cancer, which differ when it comes to location, symptoms and severity. The following is an in-depth look at the different types of this disease, as well as information regarding prevention and treatment methods.

Invasive and Noninvasive

First of all, cancer of the breast can be grouped into two major categories: invasive and noninvasive. A noninvasive cancer diagnosis means that the cancerous cells have not spread to the surrounding tissue, milk ducts or other areas of the breast. Although typically less life-threatening than invasive cancers, certain types of noninvasive cancers can become invasive if left untreated.

Patients with invasive cancer of the breast have cancerous cells that have spread to the breast tissue, milk ducts and other areas of the breast. Invasive forms of this disease also have the potential to spread to the lymph nodes and other areas outside the breast as well.

Noninvasive Types of Breast Cancer

Types of noninvasive cancer of the breast include the following:

Noninvasive Ductal Carcinoma

Noninvasive ductal carcinoma is one of the earliest stages of mammary cancer. Defined as abnormal cells in the milk ducts of the breast, this type of cancer is usually detected during a mammogram or other detection procedure []. Although the cancer has not spread at this point, treatment must be administered to prevent cancerous cells from spreading outside the milk ducts. Common treatment methods for this condition include surgery to remove abnormal cells, as well as precautionary rounds of chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Noninvasive Lobular Carcinoma

This condition is characterized by precancerous cells in one or more of the lobes of the breast. Although not technically considered cancer, noninvasive lobular carcinoma often leads to more invasive forms of this disease, and is therefore treated with surgery to remove precancerous cells.

Invasive Types of Breast Cancer

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

This is the most common form of breast cancer. Beginning in the milk ducts and progressing to surrounding breast tissue, invasive ductal carcinoma often spreads to the lymph nodes as well. This condition is usually treated aggressively with partial or full mastectomies, radiation and chemo.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

This advanced form of cancer begins in the milk ducts as well, then proceeds to invade the skin and lymphatic system. Extremely progressive with a low survival rate, mastectomies and intensive rounds of radiation and chemotherapy are used in the battle against inflammatory mammary cancer.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma

Like noninvasive lobular carcinoma, this form of cancer begins in the milk-producing glands of the breasts. The invasive form has already progressed beyond the lobes of the breast and has invaded breast tissue, lymph nodes and/or the skin.

Symptoms of Mammary Cancer

Symptoms of this disease can vary wildly on an individual basis. However, many women report one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A lump in the breast.
  • Bleeding from the nipple
  • Darkening, redness or other discoloration of the skin of the breast, areola or nipple.
  • Rippling or dimpling of the skin of the breast.


Depending on the stage at which cancer has progressed, a doctor might recommend the following treatments:


DepThis procedure involves removing only the cancerous cells and affected breast tissue.


A mastectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of breast tissue. Full mastectomies include removing the entire breast, and are recommended in many cases of breast cancer. The full removal of the breast often increases a patient’s chances of remission and survival, as it greatly reduces the risks of recurring cancer cells.


This treatment method is typically administered after a lumpectomy or mastectomy as a means to destroy any remaining cancer cells missed during surgery.


Like radiation, chemotherapy drugs are often used as precautionary treatments post-surgery, and are also administered when cancer has invaded the lymphatic system, skin or other areas of the body.


In many cases, breast cancer can not be prevented. However, the following behaviors may decrease an individual’s risk of developing this disease:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  • Abstaining from tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs
  • Avoiding hormone therapy, either post-menopause or for fertility purposes.

Since early detection can greatly increase an individual’s odds of survival, regular self-examinations and mammograms are essential to health. Past the age of 40, women should get mammograms yearly. All women should perform regular breast exams at home and report any changes or concerns to a doctor immediately.

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