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Rare breast cancers, also known as special types, are breast cancers that have cells with certain characteristics that can only be seen when a doctor examines them under a microscope.

Types of Rare Invasive Breast Cancer

Metaplastic breast cancer: This type of breast cancer mostly occurs among women who are between the ages of 47 to 61 and it is very rare. It tends not to spread to the lymph nodes but is likely to spread to other areas of the body.

Mucinous (mucoid) breast cancer: This occurs mostly in older women and it is less likely to spread to lymph nodes. It gets its name as a result of being made up of a large amount of mucin.

Tubular breast cancer: The cells associated with this type of cancer look like tubes when seen under a microscope. It is most common in older women. The tumor is typically very small when diagnosed.

Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the breast: Also known as cribriform, this type is often diagnosed in the salivary glands but manifests in breast tissue, and it is slow growing. This type rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Lymphoma of the breast: Less than 1% of breast cancers are non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL), which are extremely uncommon. B-cell lymphomas, such as diffuse large B-cell lymphomas, are the most prevalent types. Peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) is a less type. Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma is a rare type of  NHL, and occurs in a small number of women who have breast implants.

Basal type breast cancer: This is a type of breast cancer has particular genetic changes in the cells. Basal-type breast cancers are normally triple negative, which means they don’t have receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2.

Phyllodes: Also known as osteosarcoma phyllodes, these cause a lump to appear in the breast as the first symptom. Phyllodes can either be benign or malignant. It usually affects women in their middle years or older. It could spread into the lymph nodes if it were malignant, but this is considered rare.

Papillary breast cancer: Older women are more likely to have papillary tumors. There are three types of papillary breast cancer:

  • In-situ – these are tumors that are in the early stages and have not spread
  • Invasive – these are tumors that have spread to or beyond the surrounding breast tissue
  • Non-cancerous – are also called papilloma’s

Symptoms of Rare Invasive Breast Cancer

Symptoms of rare invasive breast cancer include:

  • Persistent breast pain
  • Nipple discharge
  • Swelling of the breast
  • Lump in the breast
  • Redness of the skin of the breast
  • Lumpy skin under the arms
  • Nipple or breast alterations that are not consistent with the patient’s menstruation cycle

Diagnosis of Common Invasive Breast Cancer

To have a definitive diagnosis of rare invasive breast cancer, several tests may be recommended. These include:

  • Physical exam: The doctor conducts a manual examination of the patient’s breasts through which he/she can detect a lump and any other changes.
  • Mammogram: This is done through an X-ray, which produces internal pictures of the breast.
  • Ultrasound: This is an imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to take internal pictures of breast tissue.
  • Fine Needle Biopsy: If a lump is confirmed, a biopsy may be recommended. During this procedure a thin needle is connected to a syringe and inserted into the lump to remove a sample of tissue or fluid from the lump and sent to the lab for further examination under a microscope.
  • Staging workup: This is a common process performed after detecting the presence of cancer cells in the patient. It’s used to determine how far the cancer cells have spread.

Treatment of Rare Invasive Breast Cancer

The treatment of rare invasive breast cancer is highly dependent on the type of the cancer. Over, treatment may include a single treatment like surgery, or a combination of different therapies. These include:

  • Lumpectomy: Also known as breast-conserving surgery, a lumpectomy is a procedure that involves removing part of the breast. Radiation therapy may be recommended after the procedure to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  • Mastectomy: This involves the removal of the entire breast tissue. Patients who have numerous, highly aggressive invasive ductal tumors may benefit from a mastectomy. This procedure can be followed by breast reconstruction.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of medication to kill cancer cells, typically by preventing the growth, division, and production of new cancer cells. This can be administered before surgery to shrink a large tumor thus making surgery easier and/or lower the chance of recurrence.
  • Radiation: This involves the use of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy: Also known as endocrine therapy, this is a fairly effective treatment for the majority of cancers that test positive for either the ER or PR hormone receptors. Prior to surgery, hormonal therapy may also be used to shrink a tumor. This will facilitate surgery and/or reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • Biologic (targeted) therapy: The method uses antibodies or small molecule drugs to activate the patient’s body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
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