Malignancies of the breast are infinitely variable, common and usually treatable. They can however be grouped.
Cancer is a progressively staged process. Cells become abnormal by errors in division and reproduction. Thus some cells can be damaged or contain DNA mistakes, and not be ‘cancerous’, the ability to override or ignore the bodies’ instructions.
The first malignant stage in breast cancer is called loosely insitu carcinoma. The cells here are ‘cancerous’ but remain within the ductal membranes and do not have the ability to penetrate and therefore invade. These processes may never progress to a more aggressive form, but are curable and we like to treat them early.
A cellular line which has the ability to spread beyond the ducts is called an invasive carcinoma. Again this clone may only have the ability to invade locally and thus be curable by surgery, but may also be able to spread regionally (to the lymph nodes) or even systemically (to the rest of the body). This form of the disease needs to be treated by local surgery and systemic therapy such as hormonal tablets or chemotherapy. The prognosis here is more guarded.