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There are several different types of breast cancer. Following a diagnosis, a medical team will perform an in-depth evaluation to identify the specific type(s) of cancer present. Cancer classification is a key factor in determining the most appropriate course of treatment.

How many types of breast cancer are there?

female physician inspecting types of Breast Cancer Clearwater FLIn general, breast cancer falls into one of two broad categories: noninvasive or invasive. If it’s noninvasive, cancer specialists often use the term “in situ,” which means that the cancerous cells have remained confined to the place where they first formed. If the cancer is invasive, it has spread beyond its point of origin to surrounding tissues, either nearby or distant. For example, metastatic breast cancer is a type of invasive breast cancer that has spread (metastasized) to other organs of the body.

Breast cancer is also categorized based on the type of tissue that it originates in, such as a milk duct, milk-producing lobule or, more rarely, connective tissue. Cancerous cells can also be described according to how common or aggressive they are or whether they have special characteristics that influence their treatment. For example, inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but highly aggressive type of invasive cancer that causes the breast to look swollen and red.

In short, there are many different types of breast cancer, and every patient’s case is unique. That’s why the Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center delivers highly individualized care from a specialized team that’s dedicated to giving patients the best chance at beating their cancer diagnosis. We offer genetic counseling and state-of-the-art breast cancer screenings as well as research-based treatment of breast cancer at every stage. No referrals are required. Call 1-888-663-3488 or fill out our new patient registration form to request more information.

In the meantime, here’s a brief description of some of the many breast cancer types:       

Ductal carcinoma in situ

The most common type of breast cancer, this condition begins in a breast’s milk ducts, which are thin tubes that carry milk from the breast lobules (mammary glands) to the nipple. When abnormal cells are detected in the lining of a milk duct but haven’t spread beyond that, cancer specialists refer to the condition as ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as stage 0 breast cancer. There’s no reliable way to predict whether the abnormal cells will become invasive breast cancer, which means it’s important to be treated for this early-stage malignancy. Contact Moffitt for more information.

Invasive ductal carcinoma              

When cancer that starts in a milk duct breaks through the duct wall and grows into neighboring fatty tissue, it’s considered invasive ductal carcinoma. When detected and treated in its early stages, this form of breast cancer has a five-year survival rate of 99%. Contact Moffitt to learn more.

Lobular carcinoma in situ

Patients with lobular carcinoma in situ have abnormal cells that look like cancer cells growing in the lining of the milk-producing glands—or lobules—of a breast. These abnormal cells haven’t grown into the wall of the lobules, and this form of breast cancer typically doesn’t become invasive. However, having lobular carcinoma in situ increases a patient’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer later. Get in touch with Moffitt to learn more.

Invasive lobular carcinoma

Accounting for about 10% of invasive breast cancers, invasive lobular carcinoma is the second-most common type of breast cancer. It starts in the milk-producing glands of a breast and invades surrounding breast tissue. Invasive lobular carcinoma has the potential to spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body. It can be difficult to detect by mammography, so even slow-growing tumors can become large by the time they’re diagnosed. How fast this type of cancer spreads can be affected by the details of each patient’s case, but some forms of invasive lobular carcinoma can be quite aggressive. For more information, contact Moffitt today.

Inflammatory breast cancer

This type of breast cancer often mimics the warm, red skin and other symptoms of mastitis, which is a noncancerous inflammation of breast tissue that’s sometimes caused by an infection. In the case of inflammatory breast cancer, the cause is cancer cells that block the lymph vessels. This type of breast cancer is rare, but it’s also more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. It’s always at an advanced stage when it’s diagnosed and often has already spread to distant parts of the body. If you would like more information, fill out our new patient information form to be connected with an expert from Moffitt.

Triple-negative breast cancer

Considered by some experts to be the most aggressive form of breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer gets its name from its lack of receptors for estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor 2, or HER2. This means triple-negative breast cancer, unlike most other types of breast cancer, isn’t triggered by hormone growth. Therefore, it’s unresponsive to the hormone therapies that are often used to treat other forms of breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, between 10% and 15% of all breast cancers are triple negative. Connect with us for more information.

HER2-positive breast cancer

This type of breast cancer is distinguished by an excess of HER2 protein, which promotes abnormal cell growth. High HER2 levels occur in 15% to 20% of breast tumors. HER2-positive breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than HER2-negative breast cancer, but patients often benefit from specialized treatments that have been developed to combat HER2-positive tumors. To learn more, contact Moffitt today.

Paget disease of the nipple

Also known as Paget disease of the breast or mammary Paget disease, this type of cancer starts in a milk duct and spreads to the skin of the nipple and areola. It’s a rare form of breast cancer, accounting for 1% to 4% of all breast cancer cases. For more information, contact Moffitt today.

Male breast cancer

It rarely happens, but men can develop many of the same types of breast cancer as women do. How aggressive the cancer is depends on the type. Moffitt has a wealth of experience treating rare malignancies like male breast cancer. To learn more, contact us today.

Metastatic breast cancer

When cancer that starts in the breast spreads to distant parts of the body, it’s considered metastatic breast cancer. Also known as stage 4 breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer is highly aggressive and requires specialized treatment. Patients who seek treatment for metastatic breast cancer at Moffitt benefit from the latest research-based therapies and may qualify for participation in clinical trials. Learn more by contacting us today.

Your first choice for breast cancer screening and treatment    

Whether you’re experiencing symptoms you’d like to discuss with a breast cancer specialist, you’re interested in getting breast cancer screenings or genetic counseling or you’ve received a breast cancer diagnosis and you want treatment from experts, Moffitt is here to help. As the only Florida-based Comprehensive Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Institute, we offer a high level of medical services from breast cancer specialists who provide all aspects of care and support in one convenient location. This way, each of our patients gets the benefit of multiple expert opinions, which are used to develop an individualized treatment plan.

What’s more, we understand that your breast cancer concerns are urgent. We provide all new patients with rapid access to a cancer expert as soon as possible. To learn more about Moffitt and our services and support for various types of breast cancer, call 1-888-663-3488 or request an appointment online. No referral is needed to receive care at Moffitt.


National Cancer Institute – Inflammatory Breast Cancer
American Cancer Society – Types of Breast Cancer
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Healthline – What Is HER2-Positive Breast Cancer?