What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a condition in which breast cells grow abnormally and divide without control or order. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Early detection and prompt treatment help many women live long, full lives.

Are there different types of breast cancer?

There are different types of breast cancer. The most common is ductal carcinoma, which starts in the lining of the milk ducts of the breast. The other type of breast cancer is lobular carcinoma. This begins in the lobules of the breast, where breast milk is produced.

What is non-invasive breast cancer?

With non-invasive breast cancer, the cancer cells are confined to the ducts or lobules. This is also known as carcinoma in-situ. Ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS) is when the ductal cells divide abnormally but stay within the ducts.

What is invasive breast cancer?

Invasive breast cancer occurs when cells spread beyond the ducts or lobules. These cells first invade the surrounding breast tissue, and can possibly travel to the lymph nodes.

What are my surgical options?

Your surgeon might discuss different surgical options with you. Doctors have found that different types of surgery can work equally well, depending on the situation.


The entire breast is removed, and often reconstructed, either at the time of surgery, or later. After a mastectomy, sometimes radiation therapy to the chest wall is recommended, but many times it is not necessary.


The surgeon removes the cancerous area with a margin of normal tissue. After a lumpectomy, whole breast irradiation is usually offered.

With either procedure, a sampling of lymph nodes is usually taken (sentinel lymph node biopsy procedure) to see if cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.

When faced with breast cancer, there are many difficult decisions to make. It is often helpful to gather more information about the disease as well as to talk to members of your health care team. The Taussig Cancer Center provides a Patient Cancer Resource Center, with a "Cancer Answer Line" answered by a nurse. The number is 216.444.9723, or 1.866.223.8100.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/30/2015...#6904