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The Different Types of Breast Cancer

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Nov 02, 2021

The Different Types of Breast Cancer

Did you know that there is more than just one type of breast cancer? Each type develops and responds to treatment differently. Here’s what you need to know about the types of breast cancer.

Factors in Determining Breast Cancer Type

Generally, the types of breast cancer depend on two factors: where it started and whether or not it has spread to other areas.

According to reports (1), most breast cancers begin in the breast ducts (ductal), the tiny tubes that carry milk to the nipples.

There are also cases where it starts in the breast lobules (lobular), the glands that produce the breast milk. And although rare, some cancers start in the blood or lymphatic vessel linings or the connective tissues.

Regardless of where the cancer started, doctors emphasize that it can spread to other areas of the breast, the lymph nodes under the arms, and even distant organs in the body (metastatic).

If the breast cancer is still confined in the epithelial basement membrane, we refer to it as “in situ” or “non-invasive.” If it has already spread to other breast tissues, we consider it “invasive” or “infiltrating.”

Now, let’s enumerate and explain the different types of breast cancer:

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)

As the name implies, this is the type of breast cancer found in the lining of the breast milk duct; it also hasn’t spread to other breast tissues.

DCIS is early-stage cancer and according to experts, it’s highly treatable, usually with surgery. However, if it’s not detected or treated immediately, it can become invasive ductal carcinoma.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

One of the types of breast cancer, referred to as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, started in the lining of the breast milk duct has now invaded the other tissues in the breast. Without treatment, IDC might spread to other organs of the body (metastasize) via the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

Reports(2) indicated that IDC is the most common among the breast cancer types, accounting for up to 80% of breast cancer diagnoses.

A doctor may still recommend surgery in many cases of IDC, but they might also suggest other options like chemotherapy before or after the operation. This vastly depends on the cancer stage.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)

ILC develops when the abnormal cells found in the lobules or milk glands infiltrate the nearby breast tissues. Left untreated, invasive lobular carcinoma might spread to other parts of the body via the lymphatic system and bloodstream.

According to experts(1), ILC accounts for 10% of all invasive breast cancer types.

Since this breast cancer type is “slow-growing,” it might not respond well to chemotherapy, so the doctor may opt for hormonal therapy(3).

breast cancer types

The Other Types of Cancer that Starts Elsewhere

Like mentioned earlier, some types of breast cancer don’t start in the breast milk ducts or lobules.

Case in point: we have Phyllodes tumor that starts in the connective tissue of the breast (stroma). Most cases of Phyllodes tumors are benign, but some could be malignant.

Another type of breast cancer that begins elsewhere is angiosarcoma, which starts in the cells lining the lymphatic or blood vessels.

Please note that these two are rare types of breast cancer.

The Other Types of Invasive Breast Cancer

Besides IDC and ILC, we also have the following types of infiltrating breast cancer:

  • Paget’s disease of the nipple: This type of breast cancer starts in the ducts and then spreads to the nipples and areola, causing eczema-like symptoms such as itchiness, scaling, and irritation. Paget’s disease of the nipple is rare, accounting for only 1 to 3 % of all breast cancers.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: IBC has inflammatory symptoms in the breast, like swelling, redness, thickening of the skin which sometimes has an orange peel texture. This type might be harder to diagnose because it doesn’t cause a breast lump and might not even show up in a mammogram.
  • Triple-negative breast cancer: Refers to the type of breast cancer that tests negative for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and a protein called HER2. This type grows and spreads quickly, has limited treatment options available, and often has worse outcomes.

Key Takeaways

There are different types of breast cancer. Generally, doctors identify them based on where cancer began and whether or not it has spread. Please remember that identifying the cancer type is crucial for effective treatment. If you have early signs of breast cancer, talk to your doctor right away.

Learn more about Breast Cancer here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Nov 02, 2021

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