Breast Cancer: Overview, Types, Symptoms & Stages

Divya Tripathi

, Health A2Z

Breast cancer occurs when mutations (changes) take place in the genes that regulate cell growth. These mutations, divide the cells and multiply in an uncontrolled way. The cells keep producing copies or multiplying the cells that get progressively more than normal. In most cases, the cell copies eventually form a tumor.


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What is Breast cancer?


Breast cancer develops in breast cells. Typically, the cancer forms in either the ducts or lobules the of the breast. Lobules are the diabetes skin condition which are responsible to produce milk, and ducts are the path that brings the milk from the glands to the nipple. This Cancer can also occur in the fibrous connective tissue or fatty tissue within your breast.


The uncontrolled cancer cells often occupy the other healthy breast tissue which can move to the lymph nodes under your arms. The lymph nodes are a primary track that helps the cancer cells to travel to other body parts.


What are the Types of Breast Cancer?


There are various types of breast cancer, and it can be categorized into two main sections: “invasive”, and “noninvasive”. Invasive cancer spreads from the breast glands or ducts to other parts of the breast, and noninvasive cancer doesn’t spread from the original tissue.


Invasive and noninvasive are the two categories, which are used to describe the most common types of breast cancer, which include:

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ:


It is a noninvasive condition. With this condition, the cells that line the glands in your breast changes and look like cancerous. However, DCIS cells don’t spread in the surrounding breast tissue.


Lobular Carcinoma in Situ.


This cancer grows in the milk-producing glands of the breast. Like DCIS, these cancer cells do not spread to the surrounding tissue.


Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

This is a common type of breast cancer. It begins in your breast’s milk ducts and then spreads to the nearby tissue in the breast. Once it starts spreading outside your milk ducts, it moves to other nearby organs and tissue.


Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.

It first develops in your breast’s lobules. When it is diagnosed as ILC, it has already spread to nearby organs.



The Less common type of breast cancers are:


Paget Disease of the Nipple

This type of cancer begins in the breast’s ducts, but as it grows, it begins to affect the areola and skin of the nipple as well.


Phyllodes Tumor

It’s a very rare type of breast cancer which grows in the connective tissue of the breast.



It grows on the blood vessels or lymph vessels in the breast.


The other type of cancer which are determined for treatment options:


Inflammatory Breast Cancer


It is a rare but very aggressive and quickly progresive type of cancer. It makes up only between 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases.


With IBC, cells block the lymph nodes near your breasts, so the lymph vessels near the breast can’t properly drain. Instead of creating a tumor, cells make your breast to swell, red, and feel very warm. A cancerous breast may appear thick and pitted, like an orange peel.


Triple-Negative Breast Cancer


Triple-negative is another rare type of cancer, affecting only around 10 to 20 percent of people with all breast cancer. It is very difficult to treat as well.


What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?


Breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in the early stage. In most of cases, a tumor can be small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be seen on an x-ray. If a tumor can be felt, the most common sign is a new lump in the breast that was not there earlier. However, all lumps are not cancer.


The common symptoms of the disease include:


  • A breast lump or tissue thickening.


  • Red, pitted skin over your breast


  • Swelling in all or part of your breast


  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk


  • Bloody discharge from the nipple


  • Scaling, peeling, or flaking of skin on your nipple or breast


  • A sudden, change in the size or shape of your breast


  • Inverted nipple


  • Appearance changes in the skin of your breasts


  • A lump or swelling under your arm


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What is the Breast Cancer Stages?


It can be divided into stages based on their severity. Cancers grow and invade nearby organs and tissues are at a higher stage than cancers that are still contained to the breast.


Stage 0

Stage 0 is DCIS. Cancer cells in DCIS remain confined to the ducts in the breast and don’t spread anywhere to the nearby tissue.


Stage 1

Again it is categorized into two types:

Stage 1A: The first tumor is wide in 2 centimeters, and the lymph nodes are less affected.


Stage 1B: In this stage, cancer is found in nearby lymph nodes, and the lymph is either negligible in the breast, or it is smaller than 2 centimeters.


Stage 2

Again it is divided into two categories:

Stage 2A: Here, the cancer tumor is either smaller than 2 centimeters and has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes, or it’s between 2 to 5 centimeters and hasn’t spread to any lymph.


Stage 2B: In this stage, the tumor is between 2 to 5 centimeters and has spread to armpit lymph nodes, or it’s larger than 5 centimeters and doesn’t spread to any lymph nodes.


Stage 3

There are three main stages of stage 3 breast cancer.


Stage 3A: The tumor is bigger than 5 centimeters in dimension and a small number of cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.


Stage 3B: A tumor has spread in the skin or chest wall and can or can not have spread up to 9 lymph nodes.


Stage 3C: In this stage, cancer is found in 10 or more armpit lymph nodes, these lymphs are near to the collarbone or internal mammary nodes


Stage 4: This stage can have a tumor of any size, and its cancer cells have spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes and the organs both.




Cancer is the word which can scare anyone, and it’s spreading all over the world very rapidly. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. Awareness is very essential to prevent this cancer. You need to self examine yourself at least twice a year, and if you find any lymph or any other changes on your breast then consult to your doctor, timely treatment is the only way to cure it.


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