What are the different types of breast cancer?

by | Jan 24, 2022 | 0 comments

types of breast cancer

It is really important to know the various types of breast cancer you have if your doctor has diagnosed you. There are many different classifications of breast cancer. Understanding the type of cancer you have will help to know the likely treatments. It can also provide information about the outcome of treatment and prospects of cure. Your consultant surgeon will explain this to you. If you are concerned about breast cancer please get in touch.

Tissue type of breast cancer

Breast lobules make milk and ducts transfer milk from the lobules to the nipple. The most common type of breast cancer is from the ducts (ductal). Lobular breast cancer, arising from the lobules of the breast, is less common but has some particular characteristics. Firstly, lobular cancer is often harder to spot on a mammogram. This often means that your consultant may recommend a further MRI scan to check for hidden signs of cancer in either breast. Secondly, lobular cancer is more likely to spread outside the breast to the lymph nodes.

Grade of Cancer

The breast cancer grade is not the same as the stage. Stage tells you about the size of a tumour and whether it has spread to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes under the arm. Pathologists look at the cancer cells down the microscope to diagnose the grade. This indicates how quickly the cancer is growing. Grade 1 cancers are slow growing and take time to increase in size. They are often found in older people. Grade 3 cancer is the fastest growing and multiplying and is often found in younger people. This type of cancer responds very well to chemotherapy as the cells are dividing rapidly. Grade 2 cancers are halfway between the other two and are the most common type of cancer.

Receptor Status

A really important determinant of the best treatment for breast cancer is the receptor status. The main female hormone receptors are oestrogen (ER) and progesterone (PR). Doctors measure the receptor status out of 8. So ER 8/8 means that the cancer is very sensitive to the hormone oestrogen. This is good news as it means that anti-oestrogen medication (such as Tamoxifen or Letrozole) can be used to shrink the cancer or reduce the risk of it coming back after an operation.

Cancers that are not sensitive to hormones (e.g. ER 0/8 and PR 0/8) can be effectively treated with chemotherapy. Another receptor that is measured is HER2. HER2 is a marker of an aggressive type of breast cancer but the good new is that there are specific treatments available for it. Antibody based drugs such as Herceptin (Trastuzumab) and Perjeta (Pertuzumab) are given along with chemotherapy and work extremely well for these types of breast cancer.