Breast Cancer


If you have breast cancer, you need more than just medical care. You need support and encouragement from health care professionals who understand your fears – and will help you overcome them. Mercy provides seamless breast cancer care in a compassionate environment, helping you on your journey to treatment and healing.

Types of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of breast cells.
It can take several forms, and knowing the type you have helps Mercy doctors provide the most effective treatments.

Types of breast cancer include:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ – This type begins in the cells that line milk ducts, but it’s contained and hasn’t spread to surrounding breast tissue.
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma – This type starts in the milk-duct lining, spreads to surrounding breast tissue, and can spread further through the blood and lymph systems.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma – This type begins in the milk glands (lobules), spreads to surrounding breast tissue, and can spread further through the blood and lymph systems.
  • Inflammatory – In this type, cancer cells block the lymph vessels, making the breast red, swollen and warm. Breast skin may also be pitted (like an orange).
  • Triple-negative – With this type, cancer cells lack three receptors: estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Without these receptors, some treatments aren’t as effective, so others are used.
  • Hormone receptor-positive/ER-positive – This breast cancer needs the hormone estrogen to grow, which affects the types of treatments used.
  • HER2-positive – Breast cancer cells have too many HER2 receptors, making them grow and spread quickly. Treatments may target the HER2-positive cells.
  • Metastatic – Breast cancer spreads from the place it began to other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent – Breast cancer comes back after treatment –either in the place it began or in other parts of the body. 

Male Breast Cancer

Although it’s rare, men can also develop cancer in their breast tissues. Less than 1% of breast cancer cases occur in men. For men, the lifetime risk for breast cancer is about 1 in 833.

Male breast cancer most often affects men between ages 60-70. And like women, men can have benign (not cancerous) breast conditions. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common male breast cancer. Less-common types of male breast cancer include ductal carcinoma in situ, inflammatory breast cancer and Paget’s disease of the nipple—a rare cancer in the skin of the nipple and areola. 

Causes of Breast Cancer

Normal breast cells become breast cancer when their DNA is damaged, causing abnormal cell growth.

Some DNA changes are inherited or passed on to you from your parents. But many of the DNA changes linked to breast cancer are acquired, meaning they take place during your life over time. 

Certain risk factors are strongly linked to breast cancer. Women who have them are more likely than others to develop breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Your risk for developing breast cancer increases if you have the following characteristics and conditions:

  • Gender and age Women are 100 times more likely than men to develop breast cancer. Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer, but it’s rare. Your risk also increases with age, and breast cancer is more common in women over age 50.
  • Family history If a close relative had breast, uterine, ovarian or colon cancer, your risk may be increased. Share any family history of cancer with your Mercy doctor.
  • Genes: Having certain genes also increases your risk. The two genes most linked to breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. If you test positive for these genes, you’ll need to be screened for breast cancer more often and at a younger age.
  • Menstrual history  Women who get their periods at an early age (before age 12) or enter menopause late (after age 55) have an increased breast cancer risk.
  • Dense breasts  Women whose breasts have more fibrous than fatty tissue are more prone to breast cancer. And dense breasts can make it hard to see cancer on mammograms.
  • Lifestyle ­ Drinking alcohol, being overweight or physically inactive, never having children and using hormone therapy after menopause also affect your breast cancer risk.

If you’re concerned about your risk of developing breast cancer, talk to your Mercy doctor. 

Discussions on Breast Cancer Risks & Detection

Signs & Symptoms

Breast cancer affects people differently, and some don’t experience symptoms. Younger women may ignore symptoms, believing they’re too young to get breast cancer. This delays diagnosis and can lead to poorer outcomes.

All women should be aware of the warning signs associated with breast cancer. They include:

  • A new lump in the breast or armpit
  • Thick or swollen breasts
  • Irritated or dimpled breast skin
  • Red or flaky skin on the breast or nipple
  • Nipple pain or inverted nipple
  • Nipple discharge other than breastmilk (including blood)
  • Changes in breast size or shape
  • Pain anywhere in the breast

See your Mercy doctor or Mercy OB/GYN right away if you have any of these symptoms. Although other conditions may be the cause, it’s best to consult your Mercy provider.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Breast Cancer

If you’re experiencing symptoms of breast cancer, it can be overwhelming. Mercy is here to help with everything from diagnosis to treatment. 

Learn about breast cancer diagnosis and treatment options. 

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