What are the types of breast cancer?

Doctor looking at x ray CT scan

There are lots of different types of breast cancer. The 2 main groups are non-invasive breast cancers and invasive breast cancers. 

Non-invasive breast cancer

This is breast cancer in the milk ducts or lobules, which hasn’t developed the ability to spread to tissue outside the breast. Non-invasive cancer can develop into invasive cancer. 

Invasive breast cancer

Invasive breast cancer means the cancer cells have moved beyond the lining of the milk ducts and invaded the surrounding breast tissue. Invasive breast cancer is capable of spreading outside the breast to the lymph nodes and to other parts of the body.  

Most breast cancers are invasive. 8 out of 10 cancers are invasive ductal breast cancer (ductal carcinoma).

Types of invasive breast cancers

Invasive ductal breast cancer (ductal carcinoma)  

8 out of 10 invasive breast cancers are this type. The cancer develops in the milk ducts of your breast, but breaks out of the duct tubes, and invades, or infiltrates the surrounding tissue of the breast and possibly other areas of the body.  

It is usually treated with surgery, often followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Read more about how breast cancer is treated. 

The best treatment plan for you will also depend on if your cancer is helped to grow by hormones  (ER+ breast cancer) or particular proteins (HER2+ breast cancer).

Other types of invasive breast cancer:

Rarer types of invasive breast cancer:

Medullary breast cancer, mucinous breast cancer, tubular breast cancer and malignant phyllodes tumours are rare types of breast cancer. 

 

To find out which type of breast cancer you have, a doctor called a pathologist will look at a sample of your breast tissue (biopsy) under a microscope. 

Non-invasive breast cancers

This is breast cancer in the milk ducts or lobules, which hasn’t developed the ability to spread to tissue outside the breast. Non-invasive cancer can develop into invasive cancer. 

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

The most common non-invasive breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS is an early form of breast cancer. Most people have no symptoms at all and are usually diagnosed from a mammogram (breast X-ray). Find out more about DCIS

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) 

LCIS is also called lobular neoplasia. It isn’t cancer but looks like cancer cells growing in the in the milk-producing glands of the breast.

Having LCIS means you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer in the future. Most women with LCIS will not develop breast cancer but they will have regular monitoring because of their increased risk. Find out more about LCIS.

Hormone and protein receptors 

Breast cancer can sometimes be described by the types of hormones or protein receptors the cancer cells have.

For example:

Male breast cancer

Men can get breast cancer, but it is rare. We have more information on male breast cancer.

Breast cancer that has spread outside the breast (metastatic cancer)

Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that started growing in the breast and has spread to another part of the body. 

Metastatic breast cancer may also be called advanced breast cancer, secondary breast cancer or stage 4 cancer.

Read more about metastatic breast cancer.

For more information

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