Breast cancer is a cancer that starts in the tissues of the breast. There are several types of breast cancer, including:
- The most common type begins in the lining of the ducts and is called ductal carcinoma.
- Another common type, called lobular carcinoma, occurs in the lobules (milk-producing glands).
- Paget's disease is a rare form of breast cancer that begins in the glands in or under the skin. It is often characterized by inflamed, red patches on the skin. The patches can occur in sweat glands, in the groin, or near the anus. Because Paget's disease often originates from breast duct cancer, the eczema-like cancer usually appears around the nipple.
- Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of invasive breast cancer. Usually there is no lump or tumor; rather this cancer makes the skin of the breast look red and feel warm. The breast skin also looks thick and pitted, much like an orange peel.
- Triple negative breast cancers are those that do not have estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors, and do not have an excess of the HER2 protein on the cancer cell surfaces. These breast cancers tend to occur more often in younger women and in African-American women. They tend to grow and spread faster than most other types of breast cancer. When breast cancer metastasizes, or spreads outside the breast, cancer cells are often found in the lymph nodes under the arm. If the cancer has reached these nodes, it may mean that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer that spreads is the same disease and has the same name as the original, or primary cancer. When breast cancer spreads, it is called metastatic breast cancer, even though the secondary tumor is in another organ. This may also be called "distant" disease.
Breast cancer may be invasive or noninvasive. Invasive means it has spread from the milk duct or lobule to other tissues in the breast. Noninvasive means it has not yet invaded other breast tissue. Noninvasive breast cancer is called "in situ."
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The following are the most common symptoms of breast cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain and may cause no symptoms at all. And, some breast cancers never cause symptoms or other indications of a problem.
As the cancer grows, however, it can cause changes that women and men should watch for, such as:
- A lump or thickening (a mass, swelling, skin irritation, or distortion) in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- A change in the color or feel of the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple (dimpled, puckered, red, swollen, or scaly)
- Nipple discharge, erosion, inversion, or tenderness
- A woman (or man) should consult a physician when any of these changes are noticed.
To make an appointment with a breast cancer expert at MD Anderson Cooper, call 855.MDA.COOPER (855.832.2667).