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Are there different types of breast cancer?

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Millions of women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, more than 2.3 million women across the globe were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. The BCRF also notes that breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in 140 of 184 countries worldwide.

Breast cancer statistics can give the impression that each of the millions of women diagnosed with the disease is fighting the same battle, but breast cancer is something of an umbrella term. In fact, there are various types of breast cancer, including ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer, and metastatic breast cancer. Learning about each type of breast cancer can help women and their families gain a greater understanding of this disease.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

DCIS is a non-invasive cancer that is diagnosed when abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct. The National Breast Cancer Foundation notes that DCIS is a highly treatable cancer. That's because it hasn't spread beyond the milk duct into any surrounding breast tissue. The American Cancer Society notes that roughly 20 percent of new breast cancer cases are instances of DCIS.

Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)

IDC is the most common type of breast cancer. The NBCF reports that between 70 and 80 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses are instances of IDC. An IDC diagnosis means that cancer began growing in the milk ducts but has since spread into other parts of the breast tissue. This is why IDC is characterized as "invasive." Though IDC can affect people, including men, of any age, the ACS notes that the majority of IDC cases are in women age 55 and older.

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)

The NBCF describes IBC as an "aggressive and fast growing breast cancer." Breastcancer.org notes that IBC is rare, as data from the ACS indicates that only about 1 percent of all breast cancers in the United States are inflammatory breast cancers. Many breast cancers begin with the formation of a lump, but Breastcancer.org reports that IBC usually begins with reddening and swelling of the breast, and symptoms can worsen considerably within days or even hours. That underscores the importance of seeking prompt treatment should any symptoms present themselves.

Metastatic breast cancer

Metastatic breast cancer may be referred to as stage IV breast cancer. When a woman is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, that means the cancer has spread, or metastasized, into other parts of the body. The NBCF indicates that metastatic breast cancer usually spreads to the lungs, liver, bones or brain. Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer vary depending on where the cancer has spread. For example, if the cancer has spread to the lungs, women may experience a chronic cough or be unable to get a full breath.

These are not the only types of breast cancer. A more extensive breakdown of the various types of breast cancer can be found at http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types.