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Breast cancer

Breast cancer types

There are many 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:

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

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

Invasive (infiltrating) breast cancer 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 cells remain in a particular location of the breast, without spreading to surrounding tissue, lobules or ducts.

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

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.

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.