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Types of breast cancer

There are several different types of breast cancer, which can be diagnosed at different stages and can grow at different rates.

1. Invasive and non-invasive breast cancer

Breast cancer can be invasive or non-invasive (also called ‘in-situ’). 

Most breast cancers are invasive

Invasive breast cancer has the potential to spread to other areas of the body. This does not mean the cancer has or will spread to another part of the body, just that it's a possibility.

Treatments aim to reduce the risk of this happening.

Some breast cancers are non-invasive 

Non-invasive breast cancer has not yet developed the ability to spread, either within the breast or to another part of the body.

2. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is an early type of breast cancer.

It's sometimes called intraductal, non-invasive or pre-invasive cancer.

The cancer cells are inside the milk ducts, known as ‘in situ’. They have not yet spread either through the ducts into surrounding breast tissue or to other parts of the body.

If DCIS is not treated, the cells may develop the ability to spread and become invasive breast cancer.

3. Invasive breast cancer (no special type)

Most invasive breast cancers are of no special type (NST).

It’s also called invasive ductal breast cancer or not otherwise specified (NOS). This is because when the cancer cells are looked at under a microscope they have no distinct features that class them as a particular type.

4. Invasive lobular breast cancer

This is the second most common type of breast cancer.

Cancer cells in the lobules (milk-producing glands) have spread into the surrounding breast tissue.

5. Inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, faster-growing type of breast cancer.

It's called inflammatory because the skin of the breast looks red and inflamed. This is caused by breast cancer cells blocking the tiny lymph channels in the breast and the skin.

6. Paget’s disease of the breast

Paget’s disease of the breast is an uncommon type of breast cancer that causes change to the skin of the nipple, similar to eczema.

7. Other types of breast cancer

There are several other rare special types of breast cancer.

Quality assurance

Last reviewed in June 2022. The next planned review begins in June 2024.

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