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Breast cancer can occur in both women and men. It’s important to keep in mind that most breast lumps are benign (not cancerous). With early detection, breast cancer has an almost 90% survival rate. McGlinn Cancer Institute's approach to comprehensive breast cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and supportive services is complete care. 

While breast cancer may be a common cancer among women, it is not common to you. Our compassionate team knows that a breast cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming. That is why we explain each step of your treatment and make sure you have a plan that is tailored to every stage of your journey.

Types of Breast Cancer

There are many different types of breast cancer. Thy type of breast cancer can be classified by the location in the breast where they began to grow, how much the cancer has grown or spread, and certain features that influence how the cancer behaves. The diagnosis of breast cancer and kind of cancer is identified by biopsy of breast tissue.

Knowing the type of breast cancer you have been diagnosed with helps you and your provider choose the best treatment options for you.

Non-invasive Breast Cancer

When breast cancer is non-invasive (or "in situ"), it has not spread beyond the ducts or lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. Because the blood and lymphatics are in the surrounding tissue, the risk of spread beyond the breast is small.

There are two main types of non-invasive breast cancer:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Makes up approximately 20% of all breast cancer diagnoses.  Patients with DCIS are at risk of recurrence in the breast and a slightly increased risk of developing future breast malignancies. Because of this risk, treatment is often recommended.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). Non-invasive breast cancer that has not spread outside the lobules where it started. Although LCIS is sometimes not considered true breast cancer, patients with LCIS are at risk of developing future breast malignancy and are sometimes offered preventative treatment.

Invasive Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is called invasive (or infiltrating) when it has spread outside the ducts or lobules into the surrounding tissue. Because the blood and lymphatics are in the surrounding tissue, patients with invasive carcinoma are at risk for recurrence in the breast as well as spread beyond the breast.  Because of that, most patients with invasive carcinoma are offered both local and systemic therapy.

The two most common types of invasive breast cancer are defined by where in the tumor cells begin to grow. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is invasive breast cancer that starts in the milk ducts. About 80% of all breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas. 

Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is invasive breast cancer that starts in the lobules, the glands in the breast that produce milk. It is the second most common type of breast cancer and about 10-20% of invasive breast cancers are invasive lobular carcinomas.

Invasive ductal and lobular carcinoma are similarly treated.

Types of Invasive Carcinoma

Some types of invasive breast cancer have features (determined at biopsy) that affect how they develop and how they are treated:

  • Approximately 70-75% of breast tumors are hormone (estrogen and/or progesterone) receptor positive. These tumors are sensitive to hormonal treatment with anti-estrogens.
  • Approximately 15% of breast tumors express a protein called HER2/neu. HER2/neu tumors are very sensitive to targeted therapies like trastuzumab (Herceptin).
  • Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive type of invasive breast cancer that tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and HER2/neu receptors. TNBC is often treated with chemotherapy.

Metastatic breast cancer is invasive breast cancer that has spread (metastasized) beyond the breast to other organs such as the bones, liver, lungs, or brain. Breast cancer can come back in other parts of the body months or years after the original treatment (called a metastatic recurrence).

A small number of patients are initially diagnosed with metastatic disease (called de novo metastatic or Stage IV breast cancer). Breast cancer can recur in the same breast (local recurrence), nearby lymph nodes (regional recurrence), or in another part of the body (metastatic or distant recurrence). Because of this risk, many patients are treated with local treatment to prevent recurrence in the breast and systemic treatments to prevent recurrence in other organs.

Male breast cancer is rare, but it does happen. Fewer than 1% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in men. Most male breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas.

Paget disease of the breast is a rare form of breast cancer where cancer cells collect in or around the nipple.

Inflammatory breast carcinoma is a more aggressive form of malignancy seen in approximately 1% of cases.

Cheryl headshot for breast cancer treatment at Tower Health
Cheryl and her husband had just become empty nesters when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found everything she needed at Reading Hospital, from advanced clinical trials to restorative yoga. Now, she is cancer-free.
Meet Cheryl

Diagnosing Breast Cancer

We use advanced tools and methods to diagnose breast cancer. Tests and procedures used to diagnose breast cancer include:

  • Breast exam. Your doctor will check both of your breasts and lymph nodes in your armpit, feeling for any lumps or other abnormalities.
  • Mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms are commonly used to screen for breast cancer. If an abnormality is detected on a screening mammogram, your doctor may recommend a diagnostic mammogram to further evaluate that abnormality.
  • Breast ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of structures deep within the body. Ultrasound may be used to determine whether a new breast lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.
  • Biopsy (removing a sample of breast cells for testing). A biopsy is the only definitive way to make a diagnosis of breast cancer. During a biopsy, your doctor uses a specialized needle device guided by x-ray or another imaging test to extract a core of tissue from the suspicious area. Often, a small metal marker is left at the site within your breast so the area can be easily identified on future imaging tests.
    • Biopsy samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis where experts determine whether the cells are cancerous. A biopsy sample is also analyzed to determine the type of cells involved in the breast cancer, the aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer, and whether the cancer cells have hormone receptors or other receptors that may influence your treatment options.
    • Sometimes, genomic testing like oncotype is obtained on the biopsy material to provide additional information regarding treatment options.
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI machine uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of the interior of your breast. Before a breast MRI, you receive an injection of dye. Unlike other types of imaging tests, an MRI doesn't use radiation to create images.

Other tests and procedures may be used depending on your situation. Not all women will need all tests and procedures. Your doctor will select the appropriate tests based on your specific circumstances and take into account new symptoms you experience.

Imaging Service Accreditations

The American College of Radiology accredits our mammography program. All our personnel and facilities are certified by the Food and Drug Administration under the Mammography Quality Standards Act. The majority of our mammography technologists have also obtained advanced level certification in mammography from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Treating Breast Cancer

Your care team will work with you to tailor the right course of treatment for the type of breast cancer you have. Therapy types are generally divided into local treatment (to prevent recurrence in the breast) and systemic treatments (to prevent recurrence outside the breast). Many patients need both local and systemic therapies.

Local Therapies

  • Surgery. This is the most common treatment for breast cancer.
    • Lumpectomy. Our skilled surgeons remove the affected area of the breast.
    • Mastectomy. This surgery removes one or both breasts.
    • Sentinel Lymph Node Sampling. Sampling of a limited number of lymph nodes under the arm at surgery to determine if the cancer has spread.
    • Reconstructive. Patients who have mastectomies may choose to have breast reconstruction. This rebuilds the breast tissue that is removed during surgery.
  • Radiation therapy. This treatment can be used by itself, with surgery, chemotherapy, or both. It’s a pain-free treatment that shrinks or destroys cancer cells while still protecting healthy tissue. Your care team will work with you to determine which of our sophisticated forms of radiation treatment is best for your individual needs, including image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS).

Systemic Therapies

  • Chemotherapy. This treatment can cure or help control cancer and ease its symptoms. Chemotherapy treatments use specialized medicines to kill cancer cells. Our locations provide chemotherapy infusions in comfortable, private bays that are supported by highly trained infusion nurses.
  • Hormone therapy. Some cancers test positive for certain hormones (estrogen and progesterone receptors) that can be treated with hormone-blocking therapy. This treatment can slow or stop the cancer cells from growing or metastasizing.
  • Immunotherapy. Your immune system protects your body from illness and harmful foreign substances. Immunotherapy is just one form of precision medicine we offer that boosts your body's immune system - helping it recognize and attack cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy. This treatment targets certain proteins on cancer cells that control how the cells grow and spread. Based on your type of cancer, our medical oncologists can test a cancer cell and its potential reaction to medicine. We test tumors to see if they contain targets like HER2/neu and determine if there is medicine available to fight those targets.

Talk about all your concerns, discuss your options, and ask lots of questions — including the goals of the treatment and the possible side effects. That is what your care team is there for, to make one of the most important decisions of your life.

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Cancer Screening and Risk Assessment

At McGlinn Cancer Institute, we use screening and risk assessment tests to find cancer before symptoms appear or to determine your risk for certain cancers. And, if you face a cancer diagnosis, we help you understand the genetics behind it.

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Cancer Support Services

Cancer treatment can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. At McGlinn Cancer Institute, we are here to support you every step of the way — from support groups and help managing side effects to wellness services, counseling, and rehabilitation. We offer convenient services close to home in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Breast Cancer Clinical Trials

During clinical trials, new treatments are tested and studied to see how well they work. McGlinn Cancer Institute is committed to continued cancer treatment research and offers only the most promising treatments, prevention methods, and risk assessment studies to our patients. If you are eligible, you can volunteer to take part in clinical trials.

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For questions and assistance, please call the Tower Health helpline.