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Papillary carcinoma is a rare type of breast cancer, accounting for about 3% of all breast cancers. Papillary carcinoma typically has a better prognosis than other, more common breast cancers.
The primary difference between papillary carcinoma and other types of breast cancer is that the cancer cells are arranged in finger-like projections, or papules. Under a microscope, the cells appear fern-like. Sometimes, the cancer cells are very small in size, in which case the cancer may be called micropapillary.
Most papillary carcinomas are invasive, and are treated like invasive ductal carcinoma. However, invasive papillary carcinoma usually has a better prognosis than other invasive breast cancer. Most often, invasive papillary carcinoma occurs after the development of noninvasive papillary carcinoma.
Papillary carcinoma may also be detected when it is still noninvasive. Noninvasive papillary carcinoma is usually considered a variety of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In its earliest stages, when the cancer cells are just beginning to affect the ducts, this disease may be referred to as infiltrating papillary carcinoma.
Papillary Carcinoma Risk Factors
Anyone can get papillary breast carcinoma. Factors that may increase risk include:
- Gender: Although papillary carcinoma is occasionally found in men, the disease is more common among women.
- Age: Papillary carcinoma is usually diagnosed in women between the ages of 62 and 67.
- Menopause: This type of breast cancer is more common among postmenopausal women
- Race: Non-white women are more likely than white women to have a papillary carcinoma
Papillary Carcinoma Symptoms
Although papillary carcinoma symptoms may not be present, a routine mammogram may detect its development. For those who do experience symptoms related to this type of cancer, the following may be common:
- Mass: Papillary carcinoma is most often detected as a cyst or lump of about 2-3 cm in size that can be felt with the hand during a breast self-exam.
- Nipple discharge: About 50% of papillary carcinomas occur beneath the nipple, resulting in bloody nipple discharge.
Papillary Carcinoma Treatment
Papillary carcinoma grows slowly and is highly treatable. Your doctor will work with you to select the best treatment approach for you. Therapeutic options include:
- Surgery: The most common treatment for papillary carcinoma is surgical removal of the breast (mastectomy). This approach helps reduce the chances of the cancer recurring.
- Hormone Therapy: Rarely, hormone therapy may be recommended for women with papillary carcinoma
- Radiation Therapy: A course of radiation therapy following surgery may help ensure that all cancer cells have been eliminated from the body.
For additional details about what papillary carcinoma is, please contact your healthcare provider.