Breast cancer affects one in eight women in the United States. While most risk factors cannot be changed (such as genetics, starting menstruation early or menopause late, and age) there are factors you can control. These controllable risk factors may include:
- Consuming three alcoholic drinks or more a day
- Having no children or your first child after the age of 35
- Being overweight
- Using birth control
While these are all breast cancer risk factors, there is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis for breast cancer itself. Breast cancer can be divided into four types with each differing in severity and point of origin. It is important for patients to be aware of what type of breast cancer they are diagnosed with, as treatment and type of physicians may vary.
Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, is one of the least invasive breast cancer diagnoses. “Ductal” indicates that the cancer is located in the milk ducts. “Carcinoma” refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or tissue that lines internal organs. “In situ,” which in Latin means “in its original place,” indicates that the cancer has not spread to other parts of the breast or body. This type of breast cancer, thanks to its contained nature, is not life-threatening when it is detected before spreading to other parts of the body. Treatment usually consists of a breast-conserving surgery such as a lumpectomy. While this procedure may be sufficient, most doctors also recommend some radiation treatment after the surgery because any cancer has the potential to spread.
Lobular carcinoma in situ is another type of non-invasive breast cancer that is similar to DCIS because it is confined to its point of origin. However, LCIS begins in the breast lobules, which are located at the end of the milk ducts. LCIS is usually found in premenopausal women and discovered as a result of doing a biopsy. Most experts do not actually consider LCIS cancer, but rather an abnormal tissue growth, and LCIS is also treated with a breast-conserving surgery.
Invasive ductal carcinoma (or infiltrating ductal carcinoma) is a more invasive and therefore potentially life-threatening cancer diagnosis. This is the most frequently diagnosed form of invasive breast cancer, accounting for 80 percent of all cases. IDC begins in the milk ducts and invades the surrounding tissue. Like all breast cancers, early diagnosis is critical since it can move through the bloodstream and lymphatic system very rapidly. IDC is commonly treated by surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these treatments.
Invasive lobular carcinoma begins in a lobule of the breast and spreads to surrounding tissue. If not detected early, ILC has the potential to spread throughout the body, specifically to the uterus and ovaries. ILC is the most commonly diagnosed breast cancer and is typically found in women between the ages of 45 and 56. ILC is usually detected by biopsies performed because of lumps found in the breast.
Breast cancer can be the result of many different combinations of controllable and uncontrollable risk factors, and can manifest itself in many different forms. Symptoms may include a lump in the breast, a change in size or shape of the breast or discharge from the nipple. It is absolutely critical that women receive the recommended annual mammogram in addition to a clinical breast exam by a physician.
For a Physician Referral, call St. Mary's Medical Center at (561) 882-9100.