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Breast cancer types

There are several different types of breast cancer. To determine an appropriate approach to treating the disease, your doctor will first evaluate the specifics of the breast tumor, including:

  • If the disease has spread beyond the breast
  • The type of tissue where the disease began

Types of breast cancer

Breast cancer occurs in two broad categories: invasive and noninvasive.

  • Invasive (infiltrating) breast cancer: Cancerous cells break through normal breast tissue barriers and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymph nodes.
  • Noninvasive (in situ) breast cancer: Cancerous cells remain in a particular location of the breast, without spreading to surrounding tissue, lobules or ducts.

Breast cancer is also classified based on where in the breast the disease started (e.g., milk ducts, lobules), how the disease grows and other factors. The tabs on the left provide an overview of common breast cancer types, common subtypes and rare types.

Other types of breast cancer include sarcoma of the breast, metaplastic carcinoma, adenocystic carcinoma, phyllodes tumor and angiosarcoma.

Genomic research has also led to a more specific classification of breast cancers, based on their genes and proteins. Sixty percent of breast cancers are estrogen positive, for example, while 20 percent are HER2 positive and another 20 percent are triple-negative.



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The many types of breast cancer

Infographic Types Breast Cancer

Breast cancer isn't just one disease, but many different diseases, all with their own behaviors, molecular compositions and side effects. Understanding the differences between the various subtypes may help demystify a complex disease.