Health Topics

The Diagnosis is Breast Cancer

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 several types of breast cancer:

  • The most common is ductal carcinoma that 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. There are two types of non-invasive breast cancer:

  1. The first is ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS). This is when the ductal cells divide abnormally but stay within the ducts.
  2. The second type of non-invasive breast cancer is lobular carcinoma in-situ (LCIS). This is when the cells divide abnormally, but stay within the lobules. Lobular carcinoma in-situ is an indicator that a woman might be at an increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer.

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 upon the situation.

  • Modified radical mastectomy: This procedure removes all of the breast tissue along with the nipple. Lymph nodes in the axilla (arm pit) are also removed. The chest muscles are left intact.
  • Simple mastectomy: There are no lymph nodes removed in this procedure. The entire breast is removed. This procedure is most frequently used for further cancer prevention.
  • Lumpectomy: This is also referred to as breast conservation. The surgeon removes the cancerous area with a margin of normal tissue. A second incision might be made in order to remove the lymph nodes. Following a lumpectomy, the entire breast is treated with radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells

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 at Cleveland Clinic 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.


  • American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer: How is breast cancer diagnosed? Accessed 5/23/2012
  • Symptoms & Diagnosis. Accessed 5/23/2012
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Basic Information About Breast Cancer. Accessed 5/23/2012