What are the different types of invasive breast cancer?

Dennis L. Citrin, MD
Hematology & Oncology

In conventional terminology, approximately 85 to 90 percent of invasive breast cancers would be called invasive ductal carcinoma and 5 to 10 percent invasive lobular carcinoma. There are additional rarer types. Today, with genomic testing, four main groups of invasive breast cancer have been identified: Luminal A, Luminal B, Basal and HER2 Positive. Genomic testing provides important prognostic information about each specific type of cancer and helps in determining a drug treatment that is tailored to the individual.

There are two main types of invasive breast cancer: invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC). IDC begins in the milk ducts and accounts for 70% or more of invasive breast cancers. ILC begins in the lobules and is rarer. Sometimes, the origin of the tumor may not be known.

There are also several subtypes of invasive breast cancer, including:
  • Endocrine-sensitive breast cancer: Breast cancer cells contain measurable amounts of estrogen or progesterone receptors, making the cancer treatable with hormonal therapies.
  • HER2-positive breast cancer: Breast cancer cells contain excess amounts of the HER2 receptor, making the cancer treatable with anti-HER2 targeted therapies.
  • Triple-negative breast cancer: Breast cancer cells do not contain receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2. This type of cancer cannot be treated with hormonal or anti-HER2 therapy, but can be treated with chemotherapy, radiation and non-HER2 targeted therapy.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: Invasive cancer in which there is no lump or tumor.
  • Metaplastic carcinoma: A rare type of invasive breast cancer where a portion of the tumor cells have changed to a different type of breast cancer (a mixed tumor).
  • Mucinous carcinoma: A less common type of IDC, the tumors create thick pools of mucin, a main component of saliva.
  • Papillary carcinoma: A rare type of IDC that forms in distinct lumps with finger-like projections.
  • Tubular carcinoma: A less common type of IDC made of collections of small, tube-like cells less than 1 cm in diameter.
  • Paget’s disease: Any of the above forms of breast cancer that directly involves the nipple.
  • Male breast cancer: A rare form of breast cancer, accounting for less than 1% of all breast cancers. Breast cancer in men usually begins as a lump or mass in a man’s breast, and is most commonly treated with a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.