The Various Forms of Breast Cancer
Like all cancers, breast cancer is a disease characterized by the presence of abnormal cells (tumours) that tend to multiply uncontrollably to the point of invading normal tissues. There are several types of breast cancers. They are classified according to the cells and the tissue from which the tumours are formed. When cancerous cells develop mainly in the lactiferous (or milk) ducts (small channels that carry milk), the cancer is a ductal carcinoma; when they develop in the lobules, the cancer is a lobular carcinoma. Lobular carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer.
There are other, rarer, forms of breast cancer such as Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) and Paget’s disease. Unlike most breast cancers that produce one or more distinct solid tumours, inflammatory breast cancer tends rather to form layers or nests.
The cancerous cells block the lymphatic system locally thus causing the IBC’s particular signs and symptoms:
- redness on more than one third of the breast, with or without heat;
- persistent itching;
- increased breast size;
- swelling or hardening of skin that can resemble orange peel;
- inverted nipple.
One or several such signs can be present. As well, this form of cancer can sometimes be painful.
Some of these signs may be similar to other more common health problems (mastitis or infection) that cause breast inflammation, making the IBC more difficult to detect. Thus, by the time the cancer is diagnosed, it has already reached stage III or IV. This form of cancer can prove to be particularly aggressive and grows quickly. Don’t hesitate then to consult a health professional if the signs of inflammation persist after seven to ten days of treatment.
As for Paget’s disease, it can manifest as a skin rash or through other changes in the nipple. It rarely affects both breasts.
For more information on inflammatory breast cancer:
- Canadian Breast Cancer Network
- Fondation contre le cancer (Belgium - In french only)
- American Cancer Society
- Moose & Doc Breast Cancer
For more information on Paget’s disease:
- Programme de dépistage du cancer du sein (In french only)