Although scientists are still unsure of what actually causes breast cancer, research and media attention have made certain facts about the disease widely available. Most people now know what to look for when performing a breast self-exam, and that both men and women are affected by the disease.
However, many are unaware that breast cancer is a blanket term for a number of different types of cancer that occur in the breast, all of which may manifest themselves in different ways.
Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed form of cancer affecting American women. The best way to survive breast cancer is early detection and treatment. Here are the five most prevalent forms of breast cancer affecting women today.
In-situ ductal carcinoma is often thought of as noninvasive breast cancer because cancer cells have not migrated to other parts of the body. In other words, the cancer cells remain where they started. According to MayoClinic.com, in-situ ductal carcinoma occurs when cancer cells originate and grow in the milk ducts of the breast. WebMD.com states that ISDC has the best prognosis of all breast cancer diagnoses, with a 95 percent chance of removing all cancer cells with breast-conserving surgeries and a very low recurrence rate, depending on family history and the size and amount of cancer cells present.
Infiltrating ductal carcinoma starts just like ISDC, in the milk ducts of the breast. However, IDC is thought of as invasive because cancer cells that started in the milk ducts migrate and spread to surrounding breast tissues, according to WebMD.com. IDC accounts for close to 80 percent of all invasive breast cancer diagnoses, and can become very dangerous, as this type of cancer can metastasize to other parts of the body.
Infiltrating lobular carcinoma is less common than IDC, but manifests in a similar way. MayoClinic.com states that ILC starts to grow in the lobules that produce milk in the breast, and is thought of as invasive because it then migrates to the breast tissue, and possibly to other parts of the body. ILC often feels different to the touch during a breast exam than IDC.
According to WebMD.com, one normally feels a general thickening of an area on the breast with ILC, as opposed to a defined lump in the breast as with IDC.
Medullary carcinoma is a less common form of breast cancer than ISDC, IDC or ILC, and accounts for about 15 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses. According to a report from MayoClinic.com, medullary carcinoma presents similarly to IDC in that it normally originates in the milk ducts of the breast. However, the difference is found in the general appearance of the cells. Cancer cells of medullary carcinoma look very similar to the gray matter of the brain, or the medula, which is where this type of cancer gets its name.
Medullary carcinoma most often occurs in women who have entered their late 40s and 50s, and is also thought of as invasive because it can metastasize to other parts of the body.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a less common form of breast cancer that is highly invasive and very aggressive, according to MayoClinic.com. Inflammatory breast cancer presents an increased risk. Due to the lack of any lumps in the breast, it can be difficult to detect with a mammogram.
Inflammatory breast cancer normally starts in the milk ducts but rapidly metastasizes to the outermost layer of the breast's skin, making the breast look swollen, red and bumpy. The tumor cells also invade and block the breast's lymph nodes, thereby blocking the release of any fluid.
MayoClinic.com states that inflammatory breast cancer accounts for 5 to 6 percent of all breast cancer cases in the U.S. Because of the difficulty in detecting this form of cancer, survival rates are markedly lower than with other forms of breast cancer.