Types and Stages

Breast Cancer: Types & Stages

Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center is the premier cancer treatment center of Palmer, AK, with the ability and expertise to treat all types of breast cancer with a comprehensive array of radiation options. Not all tumors are cancerous. For those that are, you should investigate all treatment options available to you and choose the one that best meets your individual needs.

Breast cancer can begin in different areas of the breast — the ducts, the lobules, or in some cases, the tissue in between. In this section, you can learn about the different types of breast cancer, including non-invasive, invasive, recurrent, and metastatic breast cancers. You can also read about breast cancer in men.

Types Of Breast Cancer

The most common types of invasive breast cancer are:

  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) – The most common type of cancer encompassing 80% of diagnosed breast cancers. This cancer starts off in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk and invades other parts of the breast. It can spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body. This is more common in women 55 years or older.
  • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) – Similar to IDC, but much more rare. This cancer begins in lobules and grows into surrounding tissues. Only about 10% of invasive cancers are ILC and they tend to occur in women over 60 years old. Some research has suggested that the use of hormone replacement therapy during and after menopause can increase the risk of ILC. There are several subtypes of rare IDC cancers including tubular, medullary, mucinous, papillary, and cribriform carcinomas.

There are two types of breast tumors that are non-invasive, meaning they have not spread past the original tumor. These types of cancer are not life-threatening, but they increase the risk of future breast cancer:

  • Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) — This type of cancer is found when abnormal cells appear in the lining of breast ducts. It is important to treat DCIS since there is no way of knowing which cells might develop into breast cancer.
  • Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) — This non-cancerous grouping of abnormal cells is found in the breast lobules. Unlike DCIS, it is unlikely the abnormal cells will become cancerous. However, you could still be at a higher risk to develop breast cancer in the future.

There are a few other rare types of cancer which can be benign or malignant:

  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) – This type of breast cancer is characterized by swelling and reddening of the breast, rather than a lump. It is an aggressive type of cancer that can progress in days, even hours. It occurs in less than 1% of breast cancer patients.
  • Paget’s Disease Of The Nipple – This rare breast cancer in which cancer cells collect in or around the nipple is found in less than 5% of breast cancer patients. The nipple may become red and scaly. Patients with this disease usually have another type of cancer of the breast.
  • Phyllodes Tumors – Another rare type of breast cancer found in less than 1% of all breast tumors. The name means “leaf-like” and refers to the growth of the abnormal cells. Most of these tumors are benign, but some are malignant and so all require treatment to prevent recurrence.

Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer in men is very rare, but approximately 2,600 men are expected to be diagnosed this year. A number of factors can increase the risk of breast cancer in men, including:

  • Older Age – Like women, older men are more at risk for breast cancer than their younger counterparts.
  • High Estrogen Levels – Men can have high estrogen levels from taking hormone medicines, being overweight (which produces estrogen), being exposed to estrogens in the environment, being heavy alcohol users, or having liver disease.
  • Klinefelter Syndrome – Klinefelter syndrome is a condition that occurs in 1 in 1000 men as a result of being born with an extra X chromosome. Men with this syndrome may develop breast tissue as a result of having higher amounts of estrogen.
  • Family History – Men with a strong family history of breast cancer, especially of men with breast cancer, are more likely to develop breast cancer themselves.
  • Radiation Exposure – Being exposed to radiation before age 30 increases your risk of having breast cancer.

Stages Of Breast Cancer

The most common method for rating the stages of cancer is called TNM, or tumor, node, metastasis. It features:

  1. Tumor – The larger the primary tumor or abnormal growth, the more serious.
  2. Node – The more lymph nodes that have cancerous cells, the more serious the cancer.
  3. Metastasis – Serious stages involve the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body.

Doctors assign levels for each of the above factors and then combine these levels into stages. They feature:

  • Stage 0 – This is a non-invasive cancer when the disease remains in the ducts and lobules of the breast tissue and has not spread to other surrounding tissue.
  • Stage 1A – An invasive cancer, but in which the tumor is still small and has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 1B – The cancer has spread ONLY to the lymph nodes and is between .2 millimeters (mm) and 2 mm in size. There is no tumor in the breast or the tumor is less than 20 mm.
  • Stage 2A – This stage can mean several things:
    • There is no tumor in the breast but the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
    • The tumor is smaller than 20 mm and has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
    • The tumor is larger than 20 mm and has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
    • The tumor is between 20 mm and 50 mm, but not spread.
  • Stage 2B – Either of the following puts you at this stage:
    • The tumor is between 20 mm and 50 mm and has spread to up to three nearby lymph nodes.
    • The tumor is larger than 50 mm but has NOT spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3A – Any size tumor has spread to between four and nine nearby lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body. Or, a tumor larger than 50 mm that has spread to up to three lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3B – The cancer has spread to the chest wall or caused swelling or ulceration of the breast or is diagnosed as inflammatory breast cancer. It may have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, but it has not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Stage 3C – This stage refers to any size tumor that has spread to 10 or more nearby lymph nodes, but not to distant parts of the body.
  • Stage 4 –  In the stage, the cancer is metastatic, having spread to other organs such as the lungs, brain, distant lymph nodes, bones, liver, or chest wall. This stage of cancer is usually found after a previous diagnosis of early breast cancer.
  • Recurrent – This stage of cancer is used when the cancer returns after treatment. Once that happens, doctors run more tests to establish a current stage.

Use these links to find out more about breast cancer:

Call Your Palmer Cancer Center Today!

At Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center, our caring cancer experts are here to help you find the best possible treatment options for your breast cancer. You owe it to yourself to find out more about the breast cancer treatment options available to you in Palmer. Call us today at 907-707-1333 for a free, no obligation phone consultation. Or, reach out to us using our online message form. One of our board-certified radiation oncologists will get back with you within 24 hours and answer all of your questions about our non-surgical, non-invasive treatments. You can trust us to develop a treatment plan that will give you the best possible outcomes. Call us today.