Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to divide and grow in an abnormal way. Invasive ductal breast cancer means the cancer cells are no longer only in the breast ducts. They have spread outside the ducts to the surrounding breast tissue and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
Invasive ductal breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer in both women and men and accounts for about 75% of all breast cancers. There are other types of breast cancer that are classed as special type such as invasive lobular breast cancer and some rare types of breast cancer.
Most invasive breast cancers are this type. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘no special type’ or ‘not otherwise specified’ because when the cells are looked at under the microscope they have no particular features that class them as a specific type of breast cancer.
Cancer cells are given a grade according to how different they are to normal breast cells and how quickly they are growing. Invasive ductal breast cancer is graded 1, 2 or 3. In general, a lower grade (1) indicates a slower-growing cancer within the breast while a higher grade (3) indicates a faster-growing cancer.
Invasive lobular breast cancer affects about 10–15% of all women with breast cancer.
It can occur at any age, but more commonly affects women between 45 and 55. Men can also get invasive lobular breast cancer but this is very rare.
In a small number of people it may be found in more than one area of the breast, or in both breasts at the same time. There is also a slightly greater risk of it occurring in the opposite breast at a later date.
Medullary breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer that accounts for around 3–5% of all breast cancers. It can occur at any age and is more common in women who inherit a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene.
It’s an invasive type of cancer, which means it has the potential to spread from the breast to other parts of the body, although this is not common with this type of breast cancer.
Although each case is different, the outlook for medullary breast cancer is often better than some other more common types of invasive breast cancer.
Tubular breast cancer is a type of invasive ductal cancer. It is quite rare, accounting for around 2% of all breast cancers.
Generally, people with tubular breast cancer have a very good prognosis (outlook) following treatment because the cancer cells are usually low grade and slow growing.
The outlook is particularly good if the cancer is not mixed with other types of breast cancer (pure tubular).
Paget’s disease of the breast is an uncommon type of breast cancer that usually first shows as changes to the nipple. It occurs in less than 5% of all women with breast cancer. Men can also get Paget’s disease but this is very rare.
Paget’s disease of the breast is not connected to Paget’s disease of the bone.
The most common symptom is a red, scaly rash involving the nipple, which may spread to the areola (the darker skin around the nipple). The rash can feel itchy or you may have a burning sensation. The nipple may be inverted (pulled in) and there may also be discharge from the nipple.
About half of all people with Paget’s disease will also have an underlying breast lump. In most cases this lump will be invasive breast cancer, which means it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body. Even when there is no lump, some people may still have an invasive cancer. But most people will have a non-invasive or in-situ cancer – known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – somewhere in the breast.
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