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.

What is Breast Cancer?

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

There are many types of breast cancer. Each one develops differently and responds to treatments differently. Breast cancer can either be categorized as invasive or non-invasive (in situ).

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)

DCIS is non-invasive breast cancer that begins in the cells that line milk ducts, but it’s contained and hasn’t spread to surrounding breast tissue.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

IDC is the most popular type of breast cancer. It begins in the milk duct lining and spreads to surrounding breast tissue. This type of breast cancer can spread further through the blood and lymph systems.

Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS)

LCIS begins in the milk glands (lobules) and is noninvasive cancer.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

Inflammatory breast cancer is a fast and aggressive type of breast cancer in which the cells block the lymph vessels. IBC causes breasts to be red, swollen and warm. Breast skin may also be pitted (like an orange). IBC generally grows rapidly and requires aggressive treatment.

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) 

A diagnosis of TNBC means cancer cells lack the three most common receptors known to fuel breast cancer growth:  estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Without these receptors, common breast cancer treatment methods aren’t as effective. The stage and grade of TNBC will influence treatment plans.

Hormone Receptor-Positive

About 80% of all breast cancer types are hormone receptor-positive, also called ER-positive. ER-positive breast cancer is much more likely to respond to hormone therapy than other types of breast cancer.


Breast cancer cells have too many HER2 receptors, making them grow and spread quickly. Treatments may target HER2-positive cells.

Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is that has spread from the place it began in the breast to other parts of the body, usually including the lungs, liver and bones. Metastatic breast cancer is stage 4 cancer.

Male Breast Cancer

Less than 1% of breast cancer cases occur in men. Male breast cancer most often affects men between ages 60-70. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of male breast cancer while less-common types include ductal carcinoma in situ, inflammatory breast cancer and Paget’s disease of the nipple—rare cancer in the skin of the nipple and areola.

Breast cancer is caused by the damaged of normal breast cells resulting in abnormal cell growth. Some DNA changes are inherited or passed on to you by 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, such as gender, age and genetics, are strongly linked to breast cancer and women who have them are at higher risk to develop breast cancer. 

Gender & 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 & Genetics

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. 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 Habits

Drinking alcohol, being overweight or physically inactive, never having children and using hormone therapy after menopause also affect your breast cancer risk.

Breast cancer affects people differently, and some don’t experience symptoms. Younger women may ignore breast cancer symptoms, believing they’re too young to get breast cancer. Unfortunately, this delays diagnosis and can lead to poorer outcomes. All women should be aware of the warning signs associated with breast cancer. Signs and symptoms can 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

Breast Cancer Screening

Screening tests and exams help detect breast cancer earlier when it’s easier to treat. There are several types of breast screening including mammograms, self-exams and clinical breast exams. Beginning at age 19, women should perform regular breast self-exams and have a clinical breast exam by a Mercy doctor or Mercy OB/GYN annually. Clinical breast exams help detect lumps, pain or other changes in the breast and are an important part of early detection.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the following screening guidelines for breast cancer:

  • Annual mammograms are recommended for women between the ages of 40 - 74 and who have no family history of breast cancer.
  • Women with a family history of breast cancer should start screening before age 40.
  • Healthy women ages 75 and older should continue to get mammograms if they’re in good health and are expected to live 10 years or longer.

Discussions on Breast Cancer Risks & Detection

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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