The term “breast cancer” refers to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast. Breast cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in American women, is the disease women fear most. Experts predict 178,000 women will develop breast cancer in the United States in 2007. Breast cancer can also occur in men, but it’s far less common. For 2007, the predicted number of new breast cancers in men is 2,000.

Yet there’s more reason for sanguinity than ever before. In the last 30 years, doctors have made great strides in early diagnosis and treatment of the disease and in reducing breast cancer deaths. In 1975, a diagnosis of breast cancer usually meant radical mastectomy removal of the entire breast along with underarm lymph nodes and muscles underneath the breast. Today, radical mastectomy is rarely performed. Instead, there are more and better treatment options, and many women are candidates for breast-sparing operations.

Cancer forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts and lobules. It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare. Breast cancer is always caused by a genetic abnormality. However, only 5-10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father. About 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the “wear and tear” of life in general.

The most common types of breast cancer begin either in your breast’s milk ducts or in the milk-producing glands. The point of origin is determined by the appearance of the cancer cells under a microscope.

Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS)

DCIS is a type of early breast cancer confined to the inside of the ductal system.

Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

IDC is the most common type of breast cancer representing 78% of all malignancies. These lesions appear as stellate (star like) or well-circumscribed (rounded) areas on mammograms. The stellate lesions generally have a poorer prognosis.

Medullary Carcinoma

Medullary carcinoma accounts for 15% of all breast cancer types. It most frequently occurs in women in their late 40s and 50s, presenting with cells that resemble the medulla (gray matter) of the brain.

Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)

Infiltrating lobular carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that usually appears as a subtle thickening in the upper-outer quadrant of the breast. This breast cancer type represents 5% of all diagnosis. Often positive for estrogen and progesterone receptors, these tumors respond well to hormone therapy.

Tubular Carcinoma

Making up about 2% of all breast cancer diagnosis, tubular carcinoma cells have a distinctive tubular structure when viewed under a microscope. Typically this type of breast cancer is found in women aged 50 and above. It has an excellent 10-year survival rate of 95%.

Mucinous Carcinoma (Colloid)

Mucinous carcinoma represents approximately 1% to 2% of all breast carcinoma. Its main differentiating features are mucus production and cells that are poorly defined. It also has a favorable prognosis in most cases.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive type of breast cancer that causes the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast to become blocked. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or “inflamed”. IBC accounts for 1% to 5% of all breast cancer cases in the United States.