BHealthy Blog

Breast Cancer Explained

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that occurs when cells in the breast tissue become abnormal and grow out of control. This excess growth can form a tumor often seen on an X-ray or felt as a lump beneath the skin. 

There are several types of breast cancer, including:

  • Ductal Carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer that begins in the milk ducts’ lining.
  • Lobular Carcinoma is another common type of breast cancer that occurs in the lobules (milk-producing glands).
  • Paget’s Disease is a rare form of breast cancer that begins on the nipple and extends to the areola. 
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a rare form of invasive breast cancer that causes the breast skin to look thick and pitted, similar to an orange peel.
  • Triple-Negative Breast Cancer is a type of cancer that is typically more aggressive and challenging to treat. It is also more likely to spread and recur compared to other types of breast cancer. 

What are the warning signs of breast cancer?

  • A lump in the breast or underarm
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
  • Pain in any area of the breast

What are the treatment options?

Breast cancer treatment depends on several factors, including the type of breast cancer and how it has spread at the discovery. People with breast cancer often receive various combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Breast-Conserving Surgical Options

There are two types of breast conservation (tissue-sparing) surgery options: lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. 

During a lumpectomy, the cancer and a portion of normal breast tissue around the lump are removed. A partial (segmental) mastectomy is similar to a lumpectomy. However, the normal breast tissue removed during a partial mastectomy is larger than the portion removed during a lumpectomy. 

Non-Breast-Conserving Surgical Options

In cases when the entire breast would need to be removed, your doctor may recommend a total mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy, or a radical mastectomy. 

A total mastectomy involves removing the entire breast and may also include some of the lymph nodes under the arm. If immediate breast reconstruction is planned, your surgeon may leave excess skin– other than the nipple and areola– on the body following the mastectomy. A modified radical mastectomy involves removing the entire breast, some of the lymph nodes under the arm, and the lining over the chest muscles. A radical mastectomy involves removing the whole breast, the lymph nodes under the arm, and the entire chest muscles. For many years, this was the standard operation. However, today, a radical mastectomy is generally only recommended when the breast cancer has spread throughout the chest.

Radiation Therapy

During radiation therapy, high levels of radiation are sent directly to the cancer cells–killing the infected cells before more damage can be done to the breast tissue. Radiation therapy is comparable to a standard X-ray, except the radiation is more potent, and the treatment lasts only a few minutes. 


Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to target abnormal cells in the body. Chemotherapy can be given intravenously or by pill. When treating breast cancer, chemotherapy is often performed in cycles: treatment, recovery, and then another treatment until the doctor advises that it is no longer necessary.

When it comes to breast cancer, the best prevention is early detection. If you are experiencing breast cancer symptoms, call Baptist Health Healthline at 1-888-BAPTIST (227-8478) to schedule your mammogram or request an appointment online.