MRH Blog

Understanding a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

There are several types of breast cancer, and they are broken into two main categories: invasive and noninvasive, otherwise known as “in situ”. While invasive cancer has spread from the breast ducts or glands to other parts of the breast, noninvasive cancer has not spread from the original tissues.

Some of the most common types of breast cancer include:

– Ductal carcinoma in situ. This is a noninvasive condition. The cancer cells are confined to the ducts in your breast and haven’t invaded the surrounding breast tissue.
– Lobular carcinoma in situ. This cancer grows in the milk-producing glands of your breast. Like ductal carcinoma in situ, the cancer cells haven’t invaded the surrounding tissue.
– Invasive ductal carcinoma. This is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in your breast’s milk ducts and then invades nearby tissue in the breast. Once the breast cancer has spread to the tissue outside your milk ducts, it can begin to spread to other nearby organs and tissue.
– Invasive lobular carcinoma. This cancer first develops in your breast’s lobules and invades the nearby tissues.

Potential Stages
Once an individual is diagnosed with breast cancer, the next step is to determine if the cancer has spread and if so, how far. This process is called staging. The stage of cancer describes how much cancer is in the body. It helps determine how serious the cancer is and how best to treat it. Cancers range from stage 0 (carcinoma in situ, noninvasive) through stage IV. As a rule, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. Within each stage, an earlier letter means a lower stage.

When determining the stages, these key pieces of information are used:
The extent/size of the tumor
The spread to nearby lymph nodes
The spread to distant sites
The presence of certain proteins
Grade of the cancer

Survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific kind of cancer, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. Survival rates can provide an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive after they were diagnosed. These statistics cannot tell you how long you will live, but they may provide a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

Questions to Ask Your Provider
Being open with your team of providers and better understanding your own cancer will make treatment less difficult. Your provider wants to answer all of your questions so that you can make informed treatment decisions and fully understand your diagnosis.

Common questions you can ask your provider and cancer team include:
– What type of breast cancer do I have?
– How big is the cancer and where is it located?
– Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes or other organs?
– What’s the stage of the cancer? What does that mean?
– What are my treatment options and what do you recommend?
– How soon do I need to start treatment?
– How does my type of cancer affect my treatment options and long-term outlook?
– What are my chances of survival, based on my cancer as you see it?
– How do I get a copy of my pathology report?

If you’re going through a breast cancer diagnosis currently, there is hope and help available. If you’re experiencing thoughts and feelings of overwhelming sadness and/or hopelessness, our mental health physicians are readily available to help you navigate this difficult time. We offer a comprehensive care team at Moab Regional Hospital that can care for your mental and physical health.