Latest Issue

UPMC Doc: Breast Cancer Not One Size Fits All

Roughly 12% of women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer affects an estimated 275,000 women per year. Men also can develop breast cancer, although it is rare.

Did you know there many different types of breast cancer? Here’s what you need to know about the types and how to recognize symptoms.
What are the types of breast cancer?

There are several different kinds of breast cancer. Each is distinguished by the origin of the cancer cells and whether it has the potential to spread.
Invasive vs. non-invasive breast cancer

Invasive breast cancer can spread (or metastasize) throughout the breast and to other areas of the body.
The common invasive types are:

Invasive ductal carcinoma, a breast cancer that affects the inner lining of milk ducts. It accounts for about 80% of all breast cancer diagnoses in women, and 90% in men. Symptoms are wide-ranging and can be subtle in the early stages.

Invasive lobular carcinoma, a breast cancer that begins in the glands (lobules) that produce milk. Those diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma tend to notice a fullness and thickening of the breast rather than a breast lump.

Non-invasive (also known as carcinoma in situ) breast cancer doesn’t spread. Since it can precede more invasive types, it is sometimes referred to as a precancerous condition.
The most common non-invasive types are:

Ductal carcinoma, the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer that remains within the milk ducts. This type of cancer may exist before invasive ductal carcinoma.

Lobular carcinoma, a non-invasive condition that rarely develops into breast cancer. However, women with lobular carcinoma have an increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer in either breast. Enhanced breast cancer screenings are recommended.
Less Common Types of Breast Cancer
Other less common types of breast cancer include:

Paget’s disease of the nipple usually begins in the nipple ducts and spreads to the nipple and areola, causing redness and irritation. Most women with Paget’s disease have an underlying ductal breast cancer. It occurs most often in women older than age 50.

Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive type of breast cancer in which the breast swells and reddens; it can be mistaken for less serious breast conditions like mastitis or cellulitis.

Angiosarcoma of the breast is very rare and originates in cells that line the blood or lymph vessels. It often develops many years after previous radiation treatment in that area.
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer symptoms vary widely. While the most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass, some types cause different, and possibly subtler, symptoms. Providers recommend performing regular breast self-examinations and seeing a doctor if you notice:

• Lumps in the breast
• Thickening of breast tissue
• Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening
• Change in the size or shape of your breast
• Dimpling or puckering of the skin
• An orange peel appearance
• Itchy, scaly, or sore breasts
• Nipple rash
• Nipple retraction
• Sudden nipple discharge
• New, persistent pain in one spot

Treating Breast Cancer

Everyone’s cancer is different, and your provider and care team will tailor a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs. Whether you need a routine breast exam or comprehensive treatment for breast cancer, your care team comprised of your provider and numerous specialists will assess your overall health and create a customized treatment plan for you.
Common treatments for breast cancer include:

• Surgery
• Chemotherapy
• Radiation therapy
• Hormone therapy

When it comes to breast cancer, early detection is an important factor for treatment and improving your outcome. If you don’t have symptoms or a family history of breast cancer, breast self-examinations, annual breast examinations by your doctor, and an annual mammogram beginning at age 40 are often recommended, but your risk determines your individualized screening recommendations. Talk to your provider today to learn more about your risk.

By Mohammad Tahir, MD, PhD

Breast Health Center, UPMC

Mohammad Tahir, MD, PhD, is fellowship trained breast and oncoplastic surgeon at UPMC’s Breast Health Center in Williamsport. For more information on breast health services and lifesaving screenings offered at UPMC in the Susquehanna region, visit

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *