The body is made up of various kinds of cells, which normally divide in an orderly way to produce more cells only when they are needed. Cancer is a group of diseases — more than 100 types — that occur when cells become abnormal and divide without control or order.
When cells divide when new cells are not needed, too much tissue is formed. This mass of extra tissue, called a tumor, can be benign or malignant.
Are not cancer
Can usually be removed
Are rarely a threat to life
Do not come back in most cases
Do not spread to other parts of the body and the cells do not invade other tissues
May be a threat to life
Often can be removed, but sometimes grow back
Can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs
Metastasize. Cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system to form tumors in other parts of the body.
There are several types of breast cancer, including:
Ductal carcinoma. This is the most common type and it begins in the lining of the ducts.
Lobular carcinoma. This is another common type and it occurs in the lobules (milk-producing glands).
Paget disease. This is a rare form of breast cancer that begins in the glands in or under the skin. It is often characterized by inflamed, red patches on the skin. Because Paget disease often originates from breast duct cancer, the eczema-like cancer usually appears around the nipple.
Inflammatory breast cancer. This is a rare form of invasive breast cancer. Usually there is no lump or tumor; rather this cancer makes the skin of the breast look red and feel warm. The breast skin also looks thick and pitted, much like an orange peel.
Triple negative breast cancers. These are breast cancers (most often invasive ductal carcinomas) that do not have estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors, and do not have an excess of the HER2 protein on the cancer cell surfaces. These breast cancers tend to occur more often in younger women and in African-American women. They tend to grow and spread faster than most other types of breast cancer.
When breast cancer metastasizes, or spreads outside the breast, cancer cells are often found in the lymph nodes under the arm. If the cancer has reached these nodes, it may mean that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer that spreads is the same disease and has the same name as the original, or primary cancer. When breast cancer spreads, it is called metastatic breast cancer, even though the secondary tumor is in another organ. This may also be called distant disease.
Types of breast cancer, in alphabetical order, are:
Adenocarcinoma (adenocystic carcinoma)
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
Infiltrating (or invasive) ductal carcinoma (IDC)
Infiltrating (or invasive) lobular carcinoma (ILC)
Inflammatory breast cancer
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) (also called lobular neoplasia)
Paget disease of the nipple
Phyllodes tumor (also spelled phylloides)
Triple-negative breast cancer
The combination of MR imaging and mammography can provide a cost-effective way of improving life expectancy for women who have an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a study authored by Mass General Imaging radiologist Janie M Lee.
Critics of the guidelines, issued on Monday by the US Services Task Force, an independent panel sponsored by the US Agency for Healthcare Quality, say the new guidelines are a step backward and will lead to more cancer deaths.
Important breast cancer detection method, mammograms, gets a 3D upgrade; Doctors get to "look through" tissue.
MGH Hotline 3.18.11
Alarmist claims about a connection between thyroid cancer rates and mammography are not only without merit but also potentially harmful if they deter women from their annual screening.
About 57 percent of women believe mammograms should start at age 40, according to a Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll.
Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has awarded Qianqian Fang, PhD, and Philips Healthcare a $500,000 grant aimed at equipping traditional mammography systems with a low-cost optical imaging system with the potential to dramatically improve breast cancer detection.
In what doctors hope is a big step forward, new 3-D mammograms promise better detection and fewer false alarms for hundreds of thousands of American women.
Mass General West Imaging - Waltham introduces new technology that improves cancer detection while reducing callbacks.
Starting breast cancer screening as early as age 25 may help women who carry a genetic mutation linked to a higher risk of cancer live longer, according to a U.S. study.
Two New England Journal of Medicine papers reporting the results of separate Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of advanced breast cancer recently received early, online first release because the studies were presented at the December 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
As part of the multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer treatment, Mass General Cancer Center patients receive care from an integrated team of pathologists, radiologists, and medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists.
William Gerald Austen Jr., MD, chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, is using liposuction techniques to advance less complicated breast reconstruction, with more natural outcomes.
Device companies race to improve breast cancer screening, but the effectiveness of new methods is still being studied.
The latest breakthrough in mammography, breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) is now available at the MGH Revere HealthCare Center.
A large-population study found that breast tomosynthesis is associated with better performance for breast cancer screening.
Learn more about breast tomosynthesis in this podcast featuring Mass General staff radiologist and Harvard Medical School instructor Phoebe Freer, MD. Courtesy of Harvard Medical Labcast, March 2012, Harvard Medical School Office of Communications and External Relations