If you or someone you know has been given a diagnosis of breast cancer, you may have heard unfamiliar terms like “in situ,” “ductal,” “invasive,” “lobular,” “inflammatory” & “carcinoma.” What do these words mean?
When the breast creates milk, it begins in a lobule. Once the lobule develops milk, the liquid flows through the milk ducts & exits through the nipple. When cancer cells develop in one of these areas, the cells may stay within that site or they may invade other parts of the breast tissue. “In situ” & “invasive” describe what the cancer cells have done. If the cancer has not spread to surrounding breast tissue, it is said to be “in situ” (i.e. in its original site). If the cancer has spread beyond the borders of its original location & invaded surrounding breast tissue, it is said to be “invasive.” The words describing the involved breast area & what the cancer cells have done are combined to form the name of a particular type of breast cancer:
- Ductal – refers to the milk ducts of the breast
- ductal carcinoma in situ (or DCIS for short) means the tumor (or cancer mass) is contained within the milk ducts
- invasive ductal carcinoma (or IDC for short) means the tumor growth has broken through the duct wall & spread to the surrounding breast tissue
- Lobular – refers to the lobule milk glands
- lobular carcinoma in situ (or LCIS for short) means cells that look like cancer are growing in the milk glands; this type isn’t considered cancer yet – it is, however, a condition that needs to be watched
- invasive lobular carcinoma (or ILC for short; also called “infiltrating lobular carcinoma”) means the tumor growth has broken through the lobule wall & spread to the surrounding breast tissue
For a diagram of the breast anatomy & above types of cancer, click: http://www.breastcancer.org/pictures/types
- carcinoma – refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissue that cover organs
- inflammatory – refers to the description of inflammatory symptoms accompanying this type of cancer (tenderness, warmth, redness, swelling, &/or an orange-peel appearance to the skin).
- inflammatory breast cancer (or IBC for short) means an inflammatory response within the breast tissue caused by cancer cells blocking the flow of lymph fluid. Note: While an antibiotic should improve symptoms caused by an infection or mastitis, it will not help this condition. Be sure to notify your doctor if you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic but your symptoms haven’t gone away.
It’s worth noting there are other types of breast cancer not mentioned. A comprehensive list includes:
ductal carcinoma in situ
invasive ductal carcinoma
lobular carcinoma in situ
invasive lobular carcinoma
mucinous or colloid
and even less common:
Kneece, Judy, RN, OCN (2012). Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook (8th ed), p 20-21, 66. South Carolina: EduCare