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What types of breast cancer are there?

What types of breast cancer are there?


After you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you will likely talk to a medical oncologist or breast surgeon who will discuss your type of breast cancer and your stage of breast cancer.

There are several different disease processes that might be considered a “positive biopsy” of your breast. 

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) is sometimes called breast cancer, but it is really a pre-cursor of breast cancer. We treat DCIS to prevent a cancer from developing. Over 23% of “positive biopsies” of the breast are DCIS these days. 

True breast cancer (invasive or infiltrating carcinoma of the breast) comes in many varieties. Only a few of them are aggressive. 

The most common type of breast cancer (about 85% of patients) starts in the milk ducts. A smaller percentage starts in the milk producing lobules. 

And, 80% of breast cancers have the same female hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone) as do normal breast cells. This is a good thing and usually indicates a cancer that can be controlled more easily. 

A minority of breast cancers have too much of a protein called HER2/neu. These types are more aggressive, but they are also very responsive to chemotherapy. 

Only about 12% of breast cancers (higher percentage among African Americans) have neither of the hormone receptors and do not over-express HER2/neu. This is sometimes called triple negative breast cancer and it does require aggressive treatment because it is a more aggressive cancer. 

The least common type of breast cancer presents looking like a bad breast infection, with heat and pain and a large area of redness and thickened skin. Inflammatory breast cancer is quite rare, representing less than 5% of breast cancers nationwide.