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What is breast cancer?

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Breast Cancer begins with a malignant tumor that starts in the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of mutated cells that form together and invade surrounding tissues. Mutations are abnormal changes in cells. Normal cells are in our genes and usually replace themselves with healthy new ones while the old ones die.  When a cell goes to replicates itself and mutates, this causes the cells to copy and replicate more mutant cells that form tumors.

Some tumors can be benign (harmless) or malignant (can be dangerous). The female breast is made up of lobules (milk producing glands) ducts (small tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple), and stroma (fatty and connective tissues surrounding the ducts and lobules, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels.

Types of Breast Cancer (Sources American Cancer Society

DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ)

DCIS is considered pre-cancer that is non-invasive. It happens when the cells that line the ducts look like cancer cells but have not spread (invacded) the walls of the ducts surrounding the breast tissue. Presently, there is no way to know with a degree of scientific certainly which DCIS cases will become invasive cancers.

LCIS (Lobular Carcinoma in Situ)

 LCIS looks like cancer cells growing in the lobules of the milk-producing glands of the breast, but they do not grow through the wall of the lobules and is not a true cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, “Women with this condition have a 7- to 11-fold increased risk of developing invasive cancer in either breast. For this reason, women with LCIS should make sure they have regular mammograms and doctor visits.”

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

 IDC is the most common breast cancer begins in the milk duct of the breast breaks through the wall of the duct, and grows into the fatty tissue of the breast. IDC can spread (metastasize) through the lymphatic system or bloodstream to other parts of the body.

Invasive (or Infiltrating) Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)

 ILC starts in the lobules (milk-producing glands) and is harder to detect by a mammogram than IDC. About 1 IDC in 10 is an ILC.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

This less common type of breast cancer is about 1% to 3% of all breast cancers. There is usually no single lump or tumor and instead it makes the skin of the breast feels warm and may give the breast a thick pitted appearance, while making the breast firmer, tender or itchy. In it’s early stages it is often misdiagnosed as an infection (mastitis) and treated with antibiotics. It’s hard to see on a mammogram and is frequently diagnosed after it has spread. For much more information about IBC go the IBC Foundation Network site at: https://www.theibcnetwork.org/

Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)

TNBC refers to breast cancer that does not express the gens for the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and HER2neu. It is more difficult to treat since many treatment options target these receptors.  The relapse rate of triple negative breast cancer tends to recur within 3-5 years while hormone positive cancer tends to recur later than that. For more information about TNBC go to: http://www.tnbcfoundation.org/

Metaplastic Breast Cancer (MplBC)

MplBC is a rare form of breast cancer occurring in 1-5% of cases. Like invasive breast cancer it starts in the milk ducts but the tumors are made up entirely of other types of cells or mixed with glandular cells and will also have mesenchymal cells. MplBC usually have a lower incidence of nodal involovement, larger tumors at presentation, more likely to be triple negative breast cancers  (about 83%0 and are known for a poorer prognosis. For more detailed information about MplBC please go to: http://www.metaplasticbc.com/

What if I am diagnosed?

A breast cancer diagnosis can be quite alarming. It’s a disease that no one deserves and there are lots of resources to help you understand more about breast cancer. We are going to write some basic information about breast cancer and refer you to other organizations that give much more detailed explanations to help you understand more about breast cancer. While breast cancer is most common in women, men can also get breast cancer. For more information about male breast cancer please see the American Cancer Society document, Breast Cancer in Men- http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/detailedguide/breast-cancer-in-men-detailed-guide-toc.

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