Breast Cancer: Types, Signs & Symptoms

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  • 0:02 Invasive vs.…
  • 2:35 Ductal & Lobular Carcinoma
  • 4:10 Signs of Breast Cancer
  • 5:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Do you know that there is more than one kind of breast cancer? Which one is most common? Do you know where breast cancer commonly spreads to? You'll learn about all this, as well as tips on how you can tell a bad lump in the breast versus one that's less likely to be cancerous, in this lesson.

Invasive vs. Noninvasive Breast Cancer

Choices, choices, everywhere! Going to the store nowadays there's more than one type of candy you can buy, jeans you can wear, and tools you can use. Breast cancer is by no means a choice, but regrettably, like consumer goods, there is more than one type of breast cancer as well - some worse than others. Before we get to those types, a very brief review of anatomy is in order. Breast tissue has many components, including lobules, structures that have glands that produce breast milk, and ducts, passageways that collect milk made in the lobules and channel it to the nipple.

Okay, with that little anatomy aside, we'll go over two main types of breast cancer in detail. One type is called noninvasive breast cancer and it's a carcinoma in situ, the earliest and most treatable form of cancer, one that has not spread beyond the basement membrane. Carcinoma means 'cancer' and in situ (sometimes pronounced in situ) implies it's 'sit'-ting in its place of origin.

Furthermore, the basement membrane I just mentioned is a thin sheet of tissue that surrounds a tumor. It's like a wall around a terrorist compound. So long as the terroristic cells multiplying in the original tumor site aren't spilling over this basement membrane wall and invading communities far and wide, it's a carcinoma in situ. As you can imagine, it's, therefore, way easier to take out one local tumor, one local terrorist compound, than trying to catch a bunch of terrorists and their compounds all over the place as they decide to spread around.

The other kind of breast cancer, invasive breast cancer, is one that has spread beyond this basement membrane wall to surrounding tissues in the breast, can then spread to nearby lymph nodes, and other organs in the body. Notably, breast cancer most commonly spreads to the lungs, liver, bone, brain, and skin. The reason it can spread about is because right outside the compound walls is a network of roads - we call them blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. Just like terrorists use roads to spread about once they get over the wall, these cancer cells use these vessels to move around the body.

Ductal & Lobular Carcinoma

Now, the reason I made you learn about the lobules, which produce, remember, the milk, and ducts, which channel that milk to the nipple, is because both noninvasive and invasive breast cancer can affect both the lobules and the ducts. Ductal carcinoma in situ is the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer, while invasive (a.k.a. infiltrating) ductal carcinoma is the most common cause of breast cancer. Lobular carcinoma in situ and invasive (a.k.a. infiltrating) lobular carcinoma are also possible, but both are less common than their respective counterparts.

I also want you to remember something for me: as a general rule, all carcinomas in situ have the potential to also become invasive, and this is why carcinoma in situ is also sometimes called pre-cancer or early cancer and should be dealt with right away.

But there's an exception here because lobular carcinoma in situ, sometimes considered a misnomer, doesn't seem to become invasive, but it does increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later in life so it's still an important warning sign. Finally, there are two more rare types of invasive breast cancer called Paget's disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer, the latter of which is a fast-growing and often fatal form of breast cancer.

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