Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Is the doctor sure I have breast cancer?

Certain types of cancer are relatively easy to identify by standard microscopic evaluation of the tissue. This is generally true for the most common types of breast cancer. This obviously implies that you have had a biopsy (removal of some tissue at the possible cancer site) that was then reviewed by a pathologist.

However, as the search for earlier and rarer forms of breast cancer progresses, it can be difficult to be certain that a particular group of cells is malignant (cancerous). At the same time, benign conditions may have cells that are somewhat distorted in appearance or pattern of growth (known as atypical cells or atypical hyperplasia). For this reason, it is important that the pathologist reading the slides of your breast biopsy be experienced in breast pathology. Most good pathology groups have multiple pathologists review questionable or troublesome slides. In more difficult cases, the slides will often be sent to recognized specialists with considerable expertise in breast pathology.

What type of breast cancer do I have?

Breast cancer is not a single disease. There are many types of breast cancer, and they may have vastly different implications. Breast cancers range from localized cancers such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to invasive cancers that can rapidly spread (metastasize). In the middle of the spectrum are breast cancers, such as colloid carcinomas and papillary carcinomas, which have a much more favorable outlook (prognosis) than the other more typically invasive breast cancers. Sometimes, noninvasive DCIS is found around invasive breast cancers.

The treatment team should be able to explain what type of cancer you have, how they determined this, and the treatment they recommend.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/25/2016

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