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COMMENTARY Diagnosing breast cancer

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Angela Sie, M.D.

Most Americans have had a family member or close friend diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2018, it is estimated that more than 266,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the United States, along with nearly 64,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

The best way to find early, curable breast cancer is through annual screening mammograms, starting between 35 and 40 years of age. Younger people should undergo testing if they are having any breast symptoms.

Even though getting diagnosed with breast cancer has become a common occurrence, many people do not understand that there are different types of breast cancer. Overall, breast cancer refers to malignant tumors or areas that have developed in the breast. Breast cancer can start in different areas of the breast, including the ducts (passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple), lobules (milk-producing glands) or tissue (fatty and connective tissues of the breast). Invasive cancers refer to those that have spread beyond the ductal system of the breast.

Common types of breast cancer

  • Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive breast cancer that starts inside the milk ducts. It is considered non-invasive because it has not spread beyond the milk duct. In most cases, DCIS is not lif -threatening, but having DCIS can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later on.
  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer, with about 80 percent of all breast cancers falling in this category. IDC begins in the milk ducts and is considered invasive because it has spread out of the ducts and into the surrounding breast tissue.
  • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma is the second most common type of invasive breast cancer. This invasive type of cancer begins in the milk-producing lobules, which empty into the ducts. It can be more challenging to find on mammography, but it is usually not an aggressive type of cancer.
  • Metastatic breast cancer, also called stage IV, has spread to another part of the body. Breast cancer can come back in another part of the body years after the original diagnosis and treatment.

Remember, annual screening mammography is the most effective way to prevent breast cancer mortality. Talk to your doctor about any changes you may be experiencing with your breasts or if you have a family history of breast cancer and may need additional screening beyond mammography. Take charge of your breast health.

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COMMENTARY Diagnosing breast cancer